Robot Gardeners

Imagine a world where robots tend our gardens, helping us grow fresh food while we sit there and do nothing but enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of our labors.

It would appear that students and researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory have created robots that can tend tomato plants. The plants are equipped with soil sensors and they can network with the robots, allowing them to communicate when they need water or nutrients.

No human is required for this robo-gardening operation. The robots have watering pumps and arms that can gently pick cherry tomatoes.

The goal of this project is, of course, to “develop a fully autonomous greenhouse”, so there are robots and plants that are connected together by computation and communication.

So, is this the beginning of robots gardening for us? If it is, then perhaps they could do all kinds of agriculture. Can you imagine entire fields of wheat harvested by a robot combine?

A vision plucked from science fiction, to be sure. Still, one has to ask oneself if there are certain things that robots are limited in doing when it comes to agricultural work. Also, it sounds like you have to wire the soil and plants, besides program the robots. In other words, is robot farming more trouble than it is worth?