The capacity of farm robotics to deliver quick-fix solutions to agriculture’s labour concerns is vastly over-estimated according to researchers in the Netherlands.
Dutch robotics scientist, Rick van de Zedde, told delegates at F&A Next: “Industry expectations for farm robotics are definitely too high at present.
“There is a tendency for users to think they can buy a robot, push the start button and leave the machine to work away on its own. That is not going to be true, certainly not in agriculture.”
One of 65 robotics researchers working on farm sector issues at WUR, Mr van de Zedde said he believed robots will help to produce food more-efficiently in the future by exploiting new, robust crops in a more-sustainable way.
However, he urged delegates not to expect too much too soon, adding that applying robotics to farming was more challenging for developers than in other industries.
This was due to agriculture’s broad range of products and use of different varieties, factors which were creating a ‘huge gap’ between research developments and on-farm use.
“You can have a prototype working well on a specific set-up for a certain point in the season,” added Mr van de Zedde.
“As soon as it is required to work on a wider basis, being exposed to many different varieties, it can quickly become clear that the set-up is too variety specific and it is not ready for field application.”