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TECH: Smart farms and agrobots
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Smart farms and agrobots
By Fanny Bates

BT 201902 tech 01智能农场和农业机器人

到2030年,联合国估计全球人口将达到85亿,中国的人口将增长到14亿。 随着每天人口的增长,中国在商品和食品方面面临着巨大的挑战。中国的研究团队正试图通过将智能技术融入粮食生产来解决这一问题。作为世界上人口最多的国家,中国在将智能技术引入农业领域方面取得了巨大突破。

智能农场-电气栽培

据报道,中国农业科学院在全国3600公顷蔬菜大棚中开展的电气栽培试验成效明显,这项技术使蔬菜产量提高了20%至30%。有这样一个关于种植业的问题已经困扰了科学家们三个世纪:电能促进植物生长吗?而现在,中国有了答案。电气栽培项目的蔬菜生长在裸露的铜线下。这些铜线高出地面约3米,在蔬菜大棚屋顶下从头到尾延伸开来。通电后,这些铜线能产生高达50,000伏的快速正电荷,相当于美国标准住宅电压的400多倍。高频电流能够杀死空气或土壤中的细菌和病毒,从而抑制疾病的传播。它还能够抑制叶子上水的表面张力,加速蒸发。在植物内部,高频电流使得天然带电粒子(如如碳酸氢盐和钙离子)的运输加速,诸如吸收二氧化碳和光合作用等代谢活动也有所增加。这种小型蔬菜种植室使用人工光源和电场刺激植物生长,预防疾病。操作是完全自动化的,几乎不需要维护。总有一天,这些小房子会成为大型农场的替代品。

农业机器人

虽然世界各地的富裕国家都在投资自动驾驶汽车,但发展中国家正在为食品革命做出巨大努力,尤其是自动化农业。今年,中国在江苏省启动了一项新的自主农业试点项目。该计划将持续7年,将在农业机器人领域引入新的设备和方法。将来在田里忙活的都是机器人,新型农民不用下地,在智慧农业平台上“躺着收获”。

BT 201902 tech 05The United Nations has estimated global population’s reach to 8.5 billion by the year 2030, and China’s population will grow up to 1.4 billion. With the number of people growing each day, China is facing great problems when it comes to goods and food. Research teams in China are trying to solve this problem by incorporating smart technologies into food production. However, with the increased food production come enormous use of resources such as water, fertilizers, nutrients, and more workforce. As the world’s most populous country, China has made a huge breakthrough in bringing smart technologies into the agricultural sector.
 

Food production on smart farms
BT 201902 tech 02According to the South China Morning Post, experiments by the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences could boost crops by 20 to 30%. Wonder how they achieved this? Instead of using standard resources, they introduced electricity wires into the soil with plants, enabling the farmers to use less pesticide, between 70 to 100% and fewer fertilizers by 20%. This is the world’s largest agricultural experiment so far, covering 3,600 hectares of soil. The future potential may be enormous, if we consider the fact that China has 4 million hectares of greenhouses, which production is worth nearly 1 trillion yuan. The experiments are not conducted in the laboratories, but rather out there, on the fields.
 

The introduction of electricity into the plants was possible due to the usage of bare copper wires which are placed above the ground. They cover the entire size of greenhouses and can carry up to 50,000 volts. These electricity shocks kill the possible bacteria and plant diseases in the air and in the soil. They also control the drainage and the use of water droplets, increasing the process of vaporization. What’s even bigger advantage is that the scientists discovered that metabolic processes, such as photosynthesis (a process whereby sunlight enables plants to convert carbon dioxide and water into glucose, generating oxygen as a byproduct), occur much faster and with no side effects. Professor Liu Binjiang, government agriculture scientist and a leading member of the project, said that “the electric current flowing through the wires is only a few millionths of an ampere by volume – lower than a smartphone cable’s workload. It does absolutely no harm to the plants or to humans standing nearby.” Thanks to these new, positive findings, China’s electro culture rates could increase by 40% every year.

BT 201902 tech 03Agrobots - robots in agriculture
While rich countries all over the world are investing in autonomous vehicles, the developing world is making a huge effort into the food revolution, especially something called automated farming. Some of the professions may soon be completely substituted with robots and smart technology. This year, China has launched a new autonomous agriculture pilot program located in Jiangsu province. The program, which will last for 7 years, will introduce new equipment and methods in the field of agricultural robotics. "In the past few years, as people become more familiar with farming robots, the applications for these machines are increasing. Compared to the same period last year, the sales of farming robots have increased from 80% to 100%," says Mr. Peng Gang from Botian Automation Technology in Suzhou. These new types of smart farmers could have immense benefits.

BT 201902 tech 04In the year 2002, autonomous farming was introduced through the GPS system which was installed on tractors. Tractors could then remember the paths and there was no wasting of land and fuel. Nowadays, farmers are even using these systems to track pesticide infestation, which helps them in making smart planting and harvesting decisions. Further efforts were taken even outside of China when a UK group of scientists claimed to harvest a crop entirely with autonomous devices. China does keep up with this trend by using maintenance, cultivation, weeding and harvesting robots. Compared to the human workforce, robots have three main advantages:
 

“First, it saves effort and guarantees that the person works in a safe industry. Secondly, a robot saves water and products. While safeguarding the quality of the product, it also protects the environment and avoids the pollutions that additives can bring about. Moreover, it saves time and works efficiently. A robot can replace the labor of up to 10 to 20 men." Even though people fear that their job positions may be put in danger, there’s no fear for this, because robots still need to be managed by the human workforce.

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