Could agricultural robots reverse trends in water resource shortages and climate change, IDTechEx asks

Could agricultural robots reverse trends in water resource shortages and climate change, IDTechEx asks

BostonAnd the November 23, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — As an important natural resource, water plays an indispensable role in people’s daily lives. At present, water consumption in many regions is under “high pressure”. Many countries are already experiencing water scarcity, and more countries are expected to face reduced availability of surface water resources by 2050. While water scarcity is becoming more and more severe, the overuse of chemicals in the agricultural industry is also exacerbating pollution Water resources, which leads to the deterioration of biodiversity, along with a series of social and environmental problems such as greenhouse gas emissions and eutrophication. As shown in IDTechEx’s recent research”Agricultural Robotics and Drones 2022-2032: Technologies, Markets, and PlayersAgricultural robots could be a potential solution.

Market size of agricultural drones and weeding robots. Source: IDTechEx

As one of the major users of water resources and chemicals/fertilizers, the agricultural industry has used more and more pesticides over the past three decades to meet the growing demand for food. However, as people become more aware of the environmental impacts of pesticides, regulations regarding pesticides are becoming more stringent. To reduce the excessive use of chemicals and their subsequent negative effects, precision farming is becoming more and more popular. As technology improves, farming is gradually moving away from the stochastic fixed-rate approach that has historically dominated agriculture toward using a variable-rate technology approach, in which the field is divided into a series of patches, and each patch is treated differently as dictated by farm analyses. To achieve precision farming, the technology used is required to deliver exactly what is required for individual crops/areas of the growing area rather than applying the same inputs to the entire area. Meanwhile, as the supply chain was disrupted, chemicals and fertilizers became increasingly expensive, which encouraged farmers to maximize the use of their resources and avoid chemical overuse, for example, through mechanical weeding or careful control of the chemical use of each plant. Separately.

Since precision farming technology needs a large amount of data collected from plants and crops, it is almost impossible for humans to collect it manually. At the same time, the precise application of chemicals or mechanical weeding also needs precise control, which makes it an ideal use case for automation. Therefore, for the application of precision agriculture, the use of automation via robotics becomes a feasible solution.

Weed control is one of the most popular applications for agricultural robots. Weed removal is an essential agricultural task for obtaining high yields. In its simplest form, weeding involves a worker manually removing weeds with a shovel or sprayer. Widespread herbicide spraying with a constant rate approach is the current paradigm. The area of ​​the field often determines the rate of spraying, and thus agrochemicals are often overused, leading to unnecessary costs for farmers and accelerating the growth of herbicide resistance. A precision farming approach can help overcome these challenges. The first step towards this is a variable rate approach that uses geolocation and farm mapping along with GPS-equipped variable rate sprinklers to vary spray rate/volume according to patch/crop needs. This approach has begun to gain traction in recent years, particularly as technology such as drones and variable-rate sprayers have become more accessible. Agricultural robots also enable a precision farming approach, using computer vision and weed detection algorithms to identify weeds and remove them mechanically or chemically. IDTechEx’s research shows that the weeding robots market size has been there 22 million US dollars in 2021, and is expected to increase 11-fold in the next five years.

Spraying with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or ground vehicles) is one of the most popular methods of precision weed control. Self-spraying uses machine vision and deep learning. Cameras (usually installed on sprinkler systems) can detect weeds, pinpoint their exact location, and precisely control the amount of spray. Automated spraying can greatly increase efficiency. Some researchers claim that when using drones, crop spraying can be completed up to five times faster than conventional methods (due to the high self-motion mentioned in the previous section) while reducing human risk from chemicals, and improving accuracy through the variable use of chemicals in the field. throughout the field, reducing the penetration of chemicals into groundwater sources.

However, despite these benefits, agricultural drones also have a series of restrictions, including associated regulations. For example, in the United Kingdom, drone spraying is banned from widespread use, because spray products are not licensed to be applied in the air. However, this does not indicate that the technology will disappear, as drones can be used for many other tasks (such as irrigation, inspection, terrain mapping, etc.). With its capabilities to manage challenging terrain, IDTechEx believes agricultural drones will see a rapid increase in sales. IDTechEx believes that drone weeding is one of the fastest growing applications, and concludes There is a rapid increase in sales, with demand increasing eightfold over the next ten years. More details on the regulations and driving forces for agricultural drones are provided in the IDTechEx report,”Agricultural Robotics and Drones 2022-2032: Technologies, Markets, and Players“.

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