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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Robots Perform Manual Labor to Make Farming Easier 02-11


Robots Perform Manual Labor to Make Farming Easier





Farming by hand involves a lot of intense labor and some mindless tasks.
There’s a startup that thinks there’s a better way to do things. Harvest Automation designs robots that arrange pots in nurseries and greenhouses. But soon, they might be able to accomplish even more – like warehousing and manufacturing.
The startup based out of Billerica, Mass., hopes to take care of some simple and often labor-intensive tasks that can be hard on workers. Moving pots around might not seem like the most important purpose for a robot, but it is actually the perfect jumping off point for Harvest Automation.
Some of the company’s founders previously worked on the team that developed the Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner. But when they left the company, they took some time to decide what type of robot to develop next. And they knew that instead of making a multi-functioning robot, they wanted to make a robot that did one thing really well.
Moving potted plants around is essential for keeping plants healthy as they grow and need more space. It is also a task that is simple enough for a robot to process and difficult enough to be unpleasant or even dangerous for human workers.
But the company isn’t trying to replace human workers with robots. Instead, it simply aims to make the whole process easier by automating very specific tasks. Harvest Automation co-founder and CTO Joseph Jones spoke to Inc about the company:
“We were naturally concerned about accusations that our robots would steal jobs. Charlie [Grinnell, the company’s COO] talked to customers about that early on. They said, “Don’t worry. We’re not going to fire anybody.” Currently, growers have a shortage of workers, so they plan to keep them on and give them higher-value tasks. And the workers we are training tell us they would much rather supervise robots than move pots around by hand.”
The company is still in its early stages. It plans to work on automating some other tasks as well, while still making sure each robot specializes in one thing. That will allow people to improve the whole farming process, save money and resources, and potentially even make it a more earth-friendly process.
Image: Harvest Automation, Facebook