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17 June 2014 04:32:41|

The role robotics could play in future food production


A team of computer scientists from the University of Lincoln, UK, is co-organising an international workshop on recent advances in agricultural robotics.

Academics from the Lincoln Centre for Autonomous Systems (L-CAS) will be attending the 13th International Conference on Intelligent Autonomous Systems (IAS-13) from 15th to 19th July, 2014.

Recent results confirm that robots, machines and systems are rapidly achieving intelligence and autonomy, mastering more and more capabilities such as mobility and manipulation, sensing and perception, reasoning and decision making.

The Series of International Conference on Intelligent Autonomous Systems (IAS) founded in 1986 is one of the major events summarising this trend.

As part of this year’s conference Lincoln scientists will be running a workshop with the aim of bringing together both academic and industrial communities to discuss recent advances in robotic applications for agriculture and horticulture.

The world’s rapidly growing population brings new challenges for global food security. To meet the future demand for more, cheaper and better quality food, new and innovative solutions and improvements to current agricultural practices are required. Agricultural robotics is one of the promising technological solutions for addressing these problems.

Dr Grzegorz Cielniak, senior lecturer in the School of Computer Science, said: “The workshop will provide a forum to present the state-of-the-art technical solutions in agricultural robotics and new exciting robotics platforms, but also to encourage future collaborations between the participants.

“Recent examples have shown agricultural robotics autonomously performing a number of different agricultural tasks, from monitoring soil and crop properties and harvesting fruit in orchards, to mechanical weeders eliminating the need for herbicides to produce affordable, safer food. Using teams of small specialised agricultural robots instead of the currently used heavy machinery can result in lower soil compaction leading to energy savings, but also in more robust systems in the case of technical failures. The number of potential new applications is enormous.”

Projects involving L-CAS include a 12-month feasibility study, funded by a £132,000 grant from the Technology Strategy Board, to create a system of laser sensors to accurately control agricultural sprayers.

Other tasks include the creation of new multi-purpose imaging technology to undertake quality inspection tasks in the food industry; automatic identification of potato blemishes and improvements in the seal integrity of heat-sealed packaging.

The workshop is supported by IEEE Robotics and Automation Society Technical Committee on Agricultural Robotics & Automation and is a continuation of previous agricultural robotics events held as part of IROS2012 and ICRA2008 conferences.

IAS-13, which is taking place in Padova, Italy, invites researchers, engineers and practitioners to disseminate their achievements and provides them with a forum to exchange their ideas.

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