October 09, 2013
Robots Improve Food And Wine Quality

A robotic grape sorter will improve wine quality and pay for itself in 2 years. Fast image processing makes this possible.

Automation raises quality. As computer hardware speeds up and algorithms for image processing improve many agricultural jobs now done by manual laborers will be done better and more cheaply by robots. I even foresee the day when weed and bug removal is done by machine that choose each weed and each bug to remove.

Another story on better food quality thru robotic agricultural work: Dutch field robot harvests only right-sized broccoli. In this sotry image processing is again key to higher quality.

Another farming story where the robot is promoted as improving quality: $50,000 strawberry-picking robot to go on sale in Japan.

The computers needed to drive robots have become cheap enough and powerful enough to justify their use out in the real world. When the computers controlling robots were far less powerful they could only be economically justified in highly controlled (i.e. simpler) environments in factories. They couldn't handle really tough image processing problems inherent in the large amount of variation in the objects found in farm fields and other visually complex environments. But affordable computers have sufficient power to tackle some of the complex environments where humans still do manual labor. This means that lots of manual labor jobs that until recently were safe from automation are now in the sights of designers of robots.

The job prospects of low skilled manual laborers are not good.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2013 October 09 08:19 PM 

Anthony said at October 13, 2013 8:46 AM:

The fewer human hands that touch my food and wine the better!
No E. coli for me!

Engineer-Poet said at October 17, 2013 8:09 PM:

That doesn't help if the fields are used for disposal of manure from the nearby feedlots.

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