The evolution of robot technology on the farm

OMAFRA’s Ian McDonald (left) and Haggerty Creek Ltd’s Chuck Baresich.

Today, farm robots come in all shapes and sizes, but they’re really not much different than a farm tractor, says Chuck Baresich, robot expert and general manager for Haggerty Creek Ltd.

Last summer, Baresich joined OMAFRA crop innovation specialist Ian McDonald on the Ontario Diagnostic Days video series talk about the evolution of robot technology and where it fits on the farm.

Baresich notes that robotics in agriculture are not new. He says automated corn dryers are a good example of how the technology is employed in the cash crop industry; automatic pig sorters are standard technology for pork producers; and robot milkers are now commonly used by dairy farmers after debuting 25 years ago.

From a cash crop perspective, Baresich says he understands why growers might be envious of how robot technology has been integrated into livestock operations. However, he notes that livestock farmers have an advantage when integrating robots because they often work in a confined space. “The challenges we see on the cash crop side is there are so many variables once you take the robot out of that designated space and controlled environment,” he says.

In the livestock business, Baresich notes the area and quantities are more easily contained — farmers know how many cows they need to milk and how many pigs need to be sorted, but in a field, there are many unknown variables, including environmental factors to consider. (Story continues after the video.)

In the video, Baresich and McDonald break down farm robots into three categories and showcase examples of the technology in action. The first category is the stationary robot, which includes corn dryers and dairy milkers. The second category is made up of what Baresich refers to as small, task-based or swarm-style robots typically used for soil sampling, inter-row cultivation, and weed control.

A final category includes larger robots that resemble more traditional pieces of farm equipment. This includes the well-known DOT power platform, which was recently purchased by Raven Industries.

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