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Robots to replace aging farmers

Prospero Agricultural Swarmbots – The Future Of Farming?

By David Dorhout


Today’s agricultural equipment has been designed around a person sitting in a chair. It cost a lot to employ a single person so the equipment grew larger in order to maximize the productivity of that one person. However, this method has its drawbacks. Farming decisions have to be made at the field level. Nature is chaotic and dynamic. Soil nutrients and moisture change from foot to foot. Having equipment that allows a single person to plant a thousand acres in a day comes at the cost of productivity per acre as a result of treating all those acres as the same. A swarm of small robots like Prospero would have the ability to farm inch by inch,

examining the soil before planting each seed and choosing the best variety for that spot. This would maximizing the productivity of each acre, allow less land to be converted to farm land, feed more people, and provide a higher standard of living for those people because they would spend less of their money on food.?

Prospero is the working prototype of an Autonomous Micro Planter (AMP) that uses a combination of swarm and game theory and is the first of four steps. It is meant to be deployed as a group or “swarm”. The other three steps involve autonomous robots that tend the crops, harvest them, and finally one robot that can plant, tend, and harvest–autonomously transitioning from one phase to another.

See the inventor’s website here.

This is a short video that lays out the new concept of swarm farming and demonstrates the first phase with Prospero, the robot farmer. For more information about Prospero and swarm robotics in farming visit or see the featured article about Prospero in the 2012 January/February issue of ROBOT Magazine.

See more videos here.

1 comment

1 SeattleCD { 12.28.11 at 7:27 pm }

Are these Phase 3 or 4?

You have to get UP to get that crop, build that barn…

Isn’t this just the next step in industrial agriculture? Couldn’t the “nutrients” be delivered wirelessly, up to date and specific for your conditions? Chemical ingredient compositions sent directly from the manufacturer for/of that GMO seed and your location.
It’s not that much of a stretch…