Can Robots Encourage Biodiversity?

Robots can do a lot of things: they can perform search and rescue operations in dangerous settings, complete tasks in harsh was down environments or potentially explosive settings, carry on for hours with repetitive tasks without injury or irritation, and do without bathroom breaks forever. But can robots encourage biodiversity? That probably wasn’t on most of our lists of robot skills.

Scientists at Harper Adams University  beg to differ. By autonomously planting crops close together, autonomous planting robots could encourage biodiversity in large-scale farms.

Closer than humans?

It’s not that robots can plant veggies closer together than humans can. Human-planted gardens often have designs like a trellis of cucumbers next to a few rows of bush beans and a mix of salad greens, all surrounded by a border of marigolds.

Large-scale farms, however, plant great swathes of identical crops covering acres.The result can be a farm which needs a lot of fertilizer and pesticides, not to mention stringent measures to prevent disease. Over time, this kind pot planting can lead to more severe problems, as we’re seeing with banana plantations and cornfields.

The researchers at Harper Adams have created machines which can plant seeds in bands about six feet wide. They’ve tried growing fields planted in rows of wheat, barley, and beans in alternation. Not only did the crops grow well, but they were also able to harvest them successfully with robot combine harvesters. Automating these tasks makes them more feasible for large factory farms, and could therefore be a solution to the problem of the threat to biodiversity of large-scale farming.

Irony in action

Farming used to be back-breaking work, and automation — along with the green revolution in crop development — made it possible to feed many more people with the same amount of human work. Then the drawbacks began to make themselves felt. Automation in farming meant less work for farmers, but also less biodiversity and the attendant nutritional and environmental consequences.

The new precision planting machinery could bring us full circle, enabling higher levels of biodiversity and a future farm that would be much more similar to old-fashioned farms of the past.


If your automated facility uses old-fashioned Indramat motion control systems and you want to keep using them, put our number into your phone. Any time you need support or service, we can help. We’re Indramat specialists, with decades of experience and a true love for these systems. Call (479) 422-0390 for immediate assistance.