Could robots be the farmers of the future?

Posted by Mike Luttrell

A student has designed a new way to tend to farm land - one that doesn't involve cheap, immigrant labor.

Ironically enough coming from a pupil at a university in Mexico, the blueprint for a humanoid machine capable of "plowing, planting, spraying and harvesting" corn looks good enough for officials to be intrigued.

"Though a prototype does not yet exist of the parallel robot guided by cables that will automate corn growing, Eduardo Rodriguez Hernandez, its inventor, has fully developed the concept of its operation and control," the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) wrote in a statement.

Hernandez, who's currently a student in the mechatronics (robotics) field, became interested in the prospect of such a creation last year.

He said he wanted to be sure the robot could have all "the functions of an experienced farmer," but, at least in his intentions, the plan is to use it to aide Mexico, not the US. Corn is a vital crop to Mexico and is one of the largest exports of the country.

So what all is involved in a corn-growing robot? It of course has to till and cultivate the land, insert the seeds to a specific depth, and maintain the land with pesticides and fertilizer. In other words, we are indeed talking about a robot that can manage the entire process from seed to edible crop.

In addition to his standard coursework in mechanics and engineering, Hernandez was inspired to go forth with his idea because he is the son of two farmers.

The next step is to try to put the design to practical use. "Very soon we hope to make a design of the prototype, but we do have to say that sometimes it’s not easy to imagine such things," Hernandez said.