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Robot and human harvest together

Farmers aim to decrease the use of herbicides. But, there is insufficient labor available in both conventional and organic farming to remove weeds and harvest by hand. Wageningen researchers develop self-learning robots that pull weeds and harvest with increasing skill. Since humans and robots will likely increasingly work together in the future, they also consider the ethical issues this collaboration poses. Do you think a robot should work in the same way a human does? 

When a robot completes a task successfully, it is stored with a smart mathematical rule as “+1”, and if the task failed, as “-1”. This is similar to the way dogs are rewarded with a treat, Ard Nieuwenhuizen agrees. The agro-food robotics researcher works on developing self-learning robots for farming applications.

“Within a few years, we can teach robots various tasks such as weeding and picking fruit. But the question remains to what extent society is willing to accept technology in our food production systems. It took quite a while before milking robots became widely used.” - Ard Nieuwenhuizen, researcher of agro-food robotics and precision agriculture. 

‘The same principles that Facebook or Google use in facial recognition or photo classifications are applied to recognizing weeds’, Nieuwenhuizen explains. Robots can learn to identify weeds in different stages of growth both in daylight and during the night using smart mathematical principles or algorithms. 

Read more at Wageningen University & Research 


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