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Robotics can help boost Asian food bowl potential: expert

20 September, 2013

Robotics can offer the Australian agricultural industry the chance to regain its competitive edge in the global marketplace, according to an expert from the University of Sydney.

"The Asia-Pacific region is looking to Australia for farming and agriculture solutions and there are discussions on Australia becoming the food bowl of Asia," Professor Sukkarieh, Director of Research and Innovation at the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies' Australian Centre for Field Robotics, said.

But Professor Sukkarieh says a declining labour force and outdated technology could restrict Australia's ability to meet the demand for fresh produce.

"This is where automation can help," he said.

"We can use it to increase efficiency and yield by having many of the manual tasks of farming performed by specially designed agricultural robotic devices.

"The robots can collect vital information, estimate yield and identify pests, weeds and diseases. The units can be controlled or monitored remotely by farmers using an iPad or phone."

Professor Sukkarieh's research team is refining the ability of robots like 'the Shrimp' to perform operational tasks such as applying fertilisers and pesticides, watering, sweeping and mowing.

Mark Calleija, a research engineer at the university, says given Australia's growing agricultural sector, the team's aim is to develop and apply automated agricultural robotic systems to benefit of both growers and consumers.

"In the next phase we will be developing algorithms that will enable robotic devices to conduct pest management patrols and carry out harvesting."