The Fujian Academy of Agricultural Sciences and the Fujian Newland Era Hi-Tech Co Ltd have developed a new agricultural robot with 5G technology and sensors that can move between the rows of leafy vegetables in greenhouses, collect data on the plants and send them to the control room where they are analyzed by artificial intelligence.
"Unlike industrial plants where robots can follow pre-established routes and perform standardized work, agricultural environments are much more complex," says Zhao Jian, the deputy head of the Digital Agriculture Institute of the Fujian Academy of Agricultural Sciences.
To face these challenges, the research institute and Newland have jointly developed a more sophisticated artificial intelligence system. They optimized computer algorithms, positioning hardware, map construction, route design, and the overcoming of obstacles, to adapt them to the agricultural environment taking into account fertilization, irrigation of plants, irregular roads, and other natural factors.
The robot's head is equipped with two 5 megapixel cameras that function as its eyes and two 7 megapixel cameras that function as ears. The sensors at the top of its head and mouth allow the robot to detect wind speed, carbon dioxide levels, humidity, temperature, and other data on the natural environment of the greenhouse.
"Currently, the robot can determine the health condition of the plants and decide if they require pest control measures," said Chen Li, the deputy director of marketing for Newland.
According to Chen, the robot is still a prototype and further research is needed to develop versatile robots that are able to harvest fruits with a bionic hand. "Based on the mass agricultural data and images we have acquired, we hope to build an optimized plant growth model to achieve automatic control of the growth environment and early warning of pests and diseases," Chen added.
China is now the largest industrial robot market in the world. As labor costs continue to rise, the demand for robots in China will become stronger, stated Wang Tianmiao, the president of the Intelligent Manufacturing Research Institute of Beihang University.