The Digital Farmhand is working on ways that will help farmers in developing countries to have a maximum harvest. Operated by the Australian Center for Field Robotics and funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the robot uses smartphone technology to analyze data, check on the health of the plant and carry out weed control and spraying. The robot was taken to Fiji by researchers from Sydney University for piloting. The move aimed at seeing if it was possible to use the robot to increase crop harvest and have more food with nutritious content.
The Robotics Professor at the University of Sydney, Salah Sukkarieh, said that Pacific farmers were going through shortage of labor and an old population of farmers. The farmers are looking for effective and pocket-friendly ways of improving food production. Sukkrieh added that there is the different economic situation. Muhammad Esa Attia, the engineer of the project, said that the local farmers were interested to know more about the robot. They were also interested in learning about the future advantages of using technology in their farms.
During its piloting process in various farms, the Digital Farmhand worked. But one of the main goals for the field piloting was to know the level of technology that will be best suited to help farmers. The robot is designed in a way that it will offer farmers a chance to either use the whole robot or some parts of its technology such as weeding or spraying parts. Muhammad said that making the technology accessible is vital. He also added that it would be easy to maintain the robot. The robots are also designed to use basic manufacturing techniques which are found in Fiji.
Cultural sensitivity, community involvement and education are important when getting new technologies into new countries. Sukkarieh added that it is important to consider how farmers will make use of the technologies. He added that education is also an important consideration since the project is a long term. United Nations (UN) reported that some developing nations in the Pacific would be expected to double production of food to feed their increasing population by 2025. UN’s Regional Coordinator for the Food and Agriculture Organization, Eriko Hibi, said that food insecurity has a great health effect for the region. According to him, the region is currently facing undernutrition, micronutrient deficiency and obesity. This has gone to a critical level that calls for immediate intervention.