Robots See at the Chemical Level

A new kind of agricultural robot is ready to share chemical information with human beings — and thereby to revolutionize automated assistance in grape growing. Cornell has these new robots out in the fields already.

Autonomous robots can trundle through grapevines scanning the plants with special hyperspectral sensors that can see and convey not just what human beings see, but the chemical and even the genetic makeup of the plants. This information, which can include characteristics like disease and insect resistance, can be used in combination with data collected over the years, as well as genome sequencing data, to make strategic decisions about which kinds of grapes to grow.

Researchers say that making the right choices could reduce pesticide use by 90%.


Spectroscopy is the term for the kind of computer vision these robots have to offer. With artificial intelligence input, these syst4ems can be more accurate in their decision making than humans, according to the researchers.

The sensors can detect disease before any signs become visible to human beings. They can also gather the information faster than humans can. This allow rapid response to change.

Climate change

One area of change that makes a difference is climate change. Grapes have been grown for centuries, and tradition has been a driving force  in decision making for much if that time.

Now, with climate change a reality in so many areas, following the precepts of grape-growing grandfathers may no longer be the best option. Disease is more of a concern with increasing temperatures.

The researchers are also incorporating satellites into their plans, With AI, autonomous robots, satellites, and existing data, they expect to be able to automate decision making and improve vineyards while helping grape growers to respond to new challenges.


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