From harvesting to pest control, farms may soon be staffed by autonomous robots .
Discovery—Commercial farms of the future may be staffed by robots that will identify, spray and pick individual pieces of produce from plants, even when their targets are grapes, peppers and apples that are as green as the leaves that surround them.
As scientists in Israel and Europe get closer to this goal, experts say the work has a number of potential benefits. Autonomous agricultural robots could protect human workers from the harmful effects of handling chemicals by hand. And through a system of highly selective spraying, robots could reduce a farm's use of pesticides by up to 80 percent.
Robots could also offer a timely supply of labor in many places, where there simply aren't enough itinerant workers available at the right times in the harvesting cycle. Meanwhile, attempts to create robots that can see, grasp and learn could end up having widespread applications in medicine, video games and more.