How Mechatronics Engineering is Advancing Agriculture
Laura Dugan ’03
When looking at how technology has impacted agricultural practices, you may think of lights that allow work to continue at night, more fuel-efficient tractors, or machines that milk cows. However, agricultural processes have been influenced greatly by the advent of mechatronics and robotics engineering in ways that seemed impossible just a few years ago.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture, “Today’s agriculture routinely uses sophisticated technologies such as robots, temperature and moisture sensors, aerial images, and GPS technology.” These technologies allow farmers to use fewer resources to target specific areas that require attention and to customize treatments for varying crops or even individual plants. They are also designed to be used in all kinds of weather and environments.
Some examples of mechatronics engineering innovations used in agriculture include:
- Agricultural drones, which monitor crop growth and provide information on yields and farm efficiency
- Autonomous tractors, which use similar technology to self-driving cars, and contain automatic planting systems, sensors to collect information on soil conditions, and auto-steering systems
- Machine Sync, a product by John Deere, which connects tractors to combines and other systems for improved productivity
Mechatronics and robotics technology use in agriculture provides benefits to the farmer, the consumer, and the environment.
For farmers, the technology leads to higher crop productivity, increased worker safety, and “greater control over plant and animal production, processing, distribution, and storage,” says the USDA.
For consumers, efficient technology-driven practices lead to higher crop yields and decreased use of resources, such as water, fertilizer, or pesticides, which leads to lower prices on food products.
For the environment, the USDA reports that mechatronics and robotics in agriculture lead to “reduced impact on natural ecosystems” and “less runoff of chemicals into rivers and groundwater.”
Providing so many benefits, it’s no surprise that the use of mechatronics and robotics in agriculture is growing. According to the report Global Agricultural Robots and Mechatronics Market - Trends and Forecasts 2017 – 2022, “the global Agricultural Robots and Mechatronics market has been estimated to reach USD 5.54 billion by 2020,” with the largest market located in North America.
Although the benefits are many, robotic equipment for use in agriculture is expensive, due in part to the nature of the industry. From the Trends and Forecasts report, “Various farms require various farming methods and same robots cannot be used for all types of farms… Even though robots and mechatronics are fast evolving, there is still a large amount of development needed in agricultural applications.”
For those interested in mechatronics engineering, this creates exciting opportunities for future development of technology related to agriculture.
Want to learn more about Mechatronics? Capitol offers bachelor’s programs in both Mechatronics Engineeringand Mechatronics and Robotics Engineering Technology. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.