Understanding robotics for agriculture

December 6, 2023
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What are Agricultural robots?

As you might expect, these machines handle tasks within the agricultural industry. They're designed to do a lot of things, but all of them have the same end goal. These machines aim to improve agricultural operations and productivity by handling labor-intensive or repetitive tasks with speed and accuracy.

What can they do?

Currently, the most common areas where agricultural robotics are applied include:

Seeding and planting

Seeding and Planting robots automate the crop planting process. This is an area where robotics can outperform humans for an indefinite period. Using GPS and vision systems, these robots sow seeds using the optimum depth and spacing.

The use of robotic arms is commonplace, though large-scale systems can use autonomous tractors and Mobile robots to plant seeds over acres of land.


Traditional methods of fertilizing involve spreading fertilizer across entire fields. This method can be wasteful and lead to uneven distribution, which can impact crop health and growth.

However, robots can apply fertilizer directly to plants and soil in controlled amounts. Some of these robots use pneumatic systems to shoot fertilizer pellets directly into soil, while others utilize liquid fertilizer, sprayed in precise quantities.


Using unmanned aerial vehicles, such as drones, the process of monitoring crops has become near-effortless. These robots can fly overhead, collect data on crops, and provide information on areas that require more water or fertilizer.

Mowing and pruning

Mowing and Pruning robots are equipped with built-in GPS systems. This allows them to move around fields and crops, sometimes without the need for human monitoring.

Mowing robots are equipped with blades on their underbelly while Pruning robots have various farming tools like pruning scissors. Both are designed to move over uneven terrain.

Weed control

Weeding is a labor-intensive, high-cost task. While chemicals can speed up the process, they often have a heavy environmental impact and can be costly.

Enter the Weeding robot.

These robots are equipped with image recognition software that allows them to identify and remove weeds using precision tools. They can pull weeds from the ground, smother them, or spray them with a precise amount of pesticide.

This reduces the cost and environmental impact of these chemicals. It's also more cost-efficient than hiring manual labor to find and remove weeds in your crops.


Agricultural robotics is often used the most in the harvesting process. Autonomous robots use cameras and sensors to identify when crops are ready to be harvested. They often make use of robotic arms and can harvest crops without damaging them.

These machines tend to be Six-Axis robots with a wide range of motion, which makes the harvesting process easy to complete.

Since these robots are static, they're often paired with a mobile unit to allow them to move around to various crops.

Sorting and packing

Often coupled with Harvesting robots, these machines divide produce up and maximize packing space using artificial intelligence. They can also function in low-temperature conditions that are often implemented to ensure fresh produce lasts longer.


Phenotyping involves analyzing a plant's health by looking at its physical appearance. This task can be tedious, especially for large-scale farms. Thankfully, robotics provides a solution.

Using weather monitors and thermal cameras, these robots inspect crops, assess plant health, and conduct soil analysis. They use this information to provide insights into ideal water and fertilizer quantities.

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How much do Agricultural robots cost?

Depending on your needs, the cost of these machines will vary.

Generally, the costs can range from as low as $800 for a basic drone to $700,000 for state-of-the-art autonomous tractors.

Are they worth investing in today?

The question of whether or not agricultural robotics is worth the investment is ultimately a personal decision. Robotics in the agricultural industry is currently at a level where it can help to scale and improve existing systems. Additionally, their ability to integrate into pre-existing software makes them ideal for farms of all sizes.

They are not only a solution to labor shortages and system changes, but also a way of reducing costs in the long term. As with all technology, robotics is always advancing. But if you are looking to streamline your agricultural processes and stay ahead of the curve, agricultural robotics is worth investing in sooner rather than later.

Main Agricultural robot facilities

While robots can be used for multiple industries, the main manufacturing facilities of Agricultural robots are:

Tortuga AgTech - Denver, Colorado

Tortuga AgTech addresses challenges such as increased costs and labor shortages. They provide farms with robotics that can identify and pick ripe fruit with a 98% accuracy rate.

Harvest Automation - Billerica, Maine

Harvest Automation was founded by former employees of iRobot, the company behind Roomba. Their behavior-based robot, the HV-100, spaces container crops for plants in greenhouses. The HV-100 can also function in extreme temperatures, making it ideal for use in a greenhouse.

Carbon Robotics - Seattle, Washington

Carbon Robotics offers a robot called the Laserweeder. This device uses artificial intelligence and computer vision to remove weeds in specialty crops. The mower can differentiate between crops and weeds and uses laser technology to destroy the weeds while leaving crops unharmed.

AppHarvest - Burlington, Massachusetts

AppHarvest uses artificial intelligence and robotics, coupled with rainwater collection and precision growing, to reduce water consumption while increasing crop yields. Their machinery can be used in all conditions but is ideal for indoor environments and plant monitoring.

UAV Systems International - Las Vegas, Nevada

UAV Systems International offers two drones.

One drone has a payload capacity of around four pounds. The other has a payload capacity of around 11 pounds. It may seem counterproductive, but by doing this, they circumvent the FAA's limit of drone weights (no more than 55 pounds at takeoff).


How is artificial intelligence impacting agricultural robotics?

Artificial intelligence has made the process of robotic farming even easier. Farmers can set the robot to automate everything it does while adapting to changes in the environment.

What is the future of robotics in agriculture?

Robots created with eco-friendly parts and smaller robots that can work collaboratively alongside humans are the two biggest emerging developments in the industry.

What is the biggest challenge of using Agricultural robots?

The biggest challenge with Agricultural robots is the initial cost. While the investment undoubtedly pays off in the long term, the upfront expense may be high.

Final thoughts

The future of robotics is bright - especially in the agricultural industry. The development of robotics is blending in with the development of agriculture, and it shows that there's a lot in store for the agricultural industry.

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