From A Galaxy
Far, Far Away.....To Waialua Coffee Fields
At the beginning of the 20th century, “one farmer” had the capability of
feeding only “8 people”. With
the technology that we have today, he can now feed “over 100 people".
But with an ever increasing population in a culture moving away from agriculture,
the modern farmer needs to be more efficient and rely more on technology,
yet be ecologically friendly.
The industrial revolution had set the stage for the use of machinery.
The next step was the replacement of human intelligence with automation.
The 1st wave of automation technology was used in the kitchen. The
next step was in the office, then the industrial work floor. Today,
it plays a vital part in transportation, warfare, and space exploration.
Yet, agricultural robots are a fairly new technology that appeared only
around the beginning of the 21st century due to the variable growth medium
involved in agriculture and the diverse types of crops.
Growing and harvesting coffee is an example of how agricultural technology
still has room for expansion. Coffee is the 5th largest agricultural
commodity in Hawaii. In Kona,
coffee is still picked by hand because no existing machine can travel over
the rugged lava fields. Picking cherries in the hot sun and rough
terrain is not a desirable job. This is a factor that contributes
to the high price of Kona coffee. If
there were machines that could pick the cherries, labor costs would go
down and the prices would drop. These machines could also be put
to use in other hilly areas like portions of the Waialua Coffee Fields
where the huge mechanical harvesters cannot be used. Even in flat
areas, the present harvesters are not very efficient because 30% of the
cherries harvested are not ripe and are wasted.
If a robot could be created that could pick only ripe cherries and that
could continuously sweep through fields as the cherries ripen, the actual
yield would increase and the prices would drop dramatically because of
the reduction in labor.
Today, the most advanced technology is still in warfare and space exploration,
not in agriculture, the one thing that is important for our survival.
Ag robots are what we need now. Imagine if we could use the knowledge
gained from space technology and apply it towards agriculture - the possibilities
would be endless!
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