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Will robotics revolutionise the farm?

An upcoming seminar at the University of Sydney will discuss the impact
of robotics on the world’s horticultural and farming industries.

The seminar, which will be held 2-6 February 2015 at the University of
Sydney, is a first-of-its-kind meeting with participation from sixty of the
world’s top agricultural roboticists.

Dr Robert Fitch, convener of the Summer School on Agricultural
Robotics (SSAR) said that Australian and international experts will present
research and discuss their ideas on the future of this rapidly advancing field.

An expert in experimental robotics, Dr Fitch explains that technological
innovations such as robotics could save the world’s agricultural industries,
adding that exciting new technologies including robotics have the potential to
attract young people back to the sector, which has experienced a steady decline
over the past four decades in both environmental and human resources.

Observing that interest in agricultural robotics is motivated by the
need to improve the processes that will inevitably feed the planet, Dr Fitch
said historically agriculture has benefited from technical innovations, and now
must respond to significant new demands and pressures to increase

The 40 percent decline in the number of farmers in Australia since 1981
is due in part to the reluctance of young people to remain in family farms, a
situation made worse by the fact that nearly a quarter of farmers are at or above
retirement age. However, exciting new autonomous systems are already being
developed for tasks such as pruning, thinning, harvesting, mowing, spraying and
weed removal.

University of Sydney’s Professor Salah Sukkarieh, an
international expert in the research, development and commercialisation of
field robotic systems says devices are also being developed that can collect
valuable real-time information to help estimate yield and reduce pesticide and
herbicide use.

Aggressive targets for food production set by the Australian Government
to meet the increasing demand from Asia can only be met by increasing the
efficiency of production while also engaging in environmental stewardship, and
contending with rising human labour costs and diminishing availability of human

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