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3D Vision-Enabled Robots Enhance Sustainable Farming Practices

3D Vision-Enabled Robots Enhance Sustainable Farming PracticesFarming requires the use of far more natural resources than the land the crops are grown in. Thanks to 3D vision, farmers are conserving those resources and developing sustainable methods.

Population growth, labor shortages, and environmental abuse have put a strain on the agriculture industry even in areas where farming needs have typically been met with relative ease. But 3D vision helps farmers use less water, less fuel, and fewer pesticides. And they can do it all while producing less waste.

3D Vision Makes Sustainable Farming Viable

The root of agriculture sustainability lies with people. An aging agricultural workforce and the shrinking number of field workers who want less strenuous work isn’t a good match for the growing number of mouths to feed throughout the world.

In the past, when farms had challenges with meeting demand, they’d simply throw more land and more workers at the problem. But as both of those resources become more limited, farms must find another way.

Farms of the future are becoming high-tech. They’re better informed and they’re empowering themselves to produce more with fewer resources. In today’s world, a crop is typically harvested only once — any still-unripe produce is left to rot. 3D vision can enable a robot to pick only ripe vegetables to harvest around the clock, at any time of the growing season.

One example of this is a strawberry-picking robot launched in 2018. The robot uses 3D vision to find a ripe berry. It then softly grips it, turns it 90 degrees to snap it from the stalk, and drops it safely into a basket.

Challenges of Farming with 3D Vision Systems

3D vision systems have much to offer the agriculture industry, but the practical application of the technology has its challenges. Agricultural robots and 3D vision systems must be adapted for all types of weather conditions — farm machinery is heavy duty so it can run in a wide range of conditions, from rain and snow to dust and heat.

One apple-picking robot has been built to endure it all. It uses an apple-sucking tube on a tractor-like robot. The contraption drives itself down an orchard row and uses computer vision to locate ripe fruit.

Robots and 3D vision systems have typically been designed for factories in the past. Factory conditions are controlled, but out in the field, automation systems will need to survive major weather hazards.

Learn more about vision systems for agriculture by visiting our educational Vision in Life Sciences section at VisionOnline.org.

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