Google unveils crop-inspecting robots

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Google’s parent company Alphabet has unveiled a prototype of robots to help farmers in improving their crop yields by transforming how food is grown.

Called Project Mineral, this initiative is a part of Alphabet’s X company, which aims to pioneer world-changing technology that could benefit the community at large.

Mineral is aimed at “developing new technologies to help build a more sustainable, resilient, and productive food system.” It seeks to effectively provide food resources to the entire world by producing crops effectively by helping farmers understand growth cycles and weather patterns.

The world today faces a massive challenge in terms of meeting the demand for food. And to successfully overcome this challenge, we need to change what we grow and how we grow. The conventional methods of farming standardize management of crops: for instance, most crops are treated in a uniform manner on a per acre or per hundred acre basis, and they are treated with chemicals and fertilizers for issues such pests, weeds, and disease.

However, Mineral believes that such a system that has been optimized and standardized is fraught with danger.

This is because when the same crops are grown extensively, they become less resistant to pests and diseases. Also, the massive use of fertilizers and pesticides has an adverse impact on the nutritional value of the soil, resulting in the food produce being less salubrious.

To overcome these challenges associated with global food production, Mineral seeks to leverage technology to “help build a more sustainable, resilient, and productive food system.”

To reach this goal, the team has designed low-emission electric powered buggies fitted with solar panels to collect plant-level insights. The advanced cameras and machine perception tools inside the buggy can help to identify issues in the field and analyze plant traits.

The robots seek to collect massive amounts of data to help farmers understand how crops are growing and interacting with the environment, which could result in reducing the use of fertilizers and chemicals and optimizing the use of resources such as water. In the long run, technology can enable farmers to restore soil fertility and enhance their productivity.

“Our project started with the insight that in order to grow food sustainably on a global scale, new tools will be needed to manage the staggering complexity of farming. Alongside experts in the field — literally and figuratively — we’ve been developing and testing a range of software and hardware prototypes based on breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, simulation, sensors, robotics and more,” Project lead Elliott Grant said in a blog post.

Isn’t this new technology exciting? Do you think technology is the solution to the problems associated with conventional agricultural practices? Let us know your views in the comments section below.

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