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Robots in the fields are not science fiction

In France, the USA and some Eastern European countries they are already at work on farms. But in Italy as well the demand for robots in agriculture is beginning to gain ground in order to increase and improve production, supplementing human labour while reducing environmental impact. The main stumbling block to dissemination still remains safety

by the editorial staff
January - February 2023 | Back

They can be used for many activities, from pruning vineyards to all necessary pest control and weed control practices. They can also be an effective tool for reducing the environmental impact of the production cycle. Robotics are also useful in achieving the objectives set by the European Commission, such as the 50% reduction of pesticides by 2030.

As emerged during EIMA International, when we talk about robots in agriculture we are no longer talking about science fiction but a reality that is taking shape. Already in action for some time in France, the United States and some Eastern European countries, robots now represent the future of technological innovation in agriculture in Italy too. A future foreshadowed by the FAO itself: for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, farms will increasingly have to change and become smart, with a high technological content. In Italy too, universities and research centres are focusing on the creation of robots capable of effectively integrating the hand of man while ensuring maximum safety. The latter is a crucial factor for the spread of robotics in the agricultural sector. "We are in our infancy, there is no real market demand yet," explains Alessio Bolognesi, an expert in digital technologies. Member of FederUnacoma's Technical Service "but we are seeing many projects for small and large robots springing up in our country too. And there is a lot of interest from farmers, but the stumbling block we have to overcome is machine safety when it interacts with man". Another barrier is scepticism, as Riccardo Basantini, sales manager of 12 Steps Distribution, points out.

"Robotics is nowadays a technology within everyone's reach that can be used in a simple way," says Basantini, "and robotics can be a valuable ally of man to carry out all those operations that are dangerous, such as clearing a valley floor, by remote control”. But at this point, the road towards the use of robots is marked out, as shown by the Consortium created by the Milan Polytechnic and the University of Milan together with a number of foreign research centres precisely to measure and improve the performance of robots. "Consortium with which," explains Matteo Matteucci, a lecturer at the Polytechnic, "we are trying to measure how good a robot is at distinguishing between crops and weeds".

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