Robots, People Working Together To Save Water, Enhance Agriculture

A nearly $1 million grant from the USDA is helping University of California researchers refine collaborative robotic technology that could change the way crops are maintained worldwide, saving millions of gallons of water each year and taking precision agriculture to a whole new level, writes Lorena Anderson, University of California Merced.

University of California Merced Professor Stefano Carpin

UC Merced professor Stefano Carpin and one of his robots. Photo credit: UC Merced

The three-year Robot-Assisted Precision Irrigation and Diagnostics (RAPID) project is led by UC Merced robotics professor Stefano Carpin, UC Berkeley professor Ken Goldberg — director of the People and Robots Initiative at the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) and the Banatao Institute — and UC Davis biology and engineering associate professor Stavros Vougioukas.

Some studies estimate that 85% of the world’s freshwater is used for agriculture, and existing methods of maintaining crops could be improved. The researchers plan to show they can conserve more water through co-robotics, with workers interacting with technology for precision irrigation, ideally at the individual plant level.

This comes from looking for ways to address drought and agricultural concerns,” said Carpin, with the School of Engineering. “Anything we can do to save water is, and will continue to be, very important.”


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