Robots have become an integral part of our lives in ways that many of us may not even know. They are now playing an active part in farming, processing, and packaging food. In effect, robots make it possible to get food to stores faster and enable the food industry to meet the growing demand expected to reach 10,094 million tons by 2030.
Let’s explore how autonomous robots play a critical role at different levels to bring food to our tables faster and enable us to meet the global food demand sustainably.
The Role of Robots from Farm to Table
From crop monitoring, food packaging, and warehouse management to cooking and serving food to guests, here’s how robots are transforming the food industry from farm to table.
Robots in Precision Farming
Precision farming is dubbed as the future of farming when IT and agriculture will mingle to accurately determine what’s suitable for the soil, plants, and climate to get the best results.
Robots will play a considerable role in precision farming, as this form of farming is all about giving the proper care to plants at the right time. With labor shortages globally, robots are the apparent option for the future of agriculture.
We now have robots that can do a variety of operations on farmlands. For example, weeding robots can identify individual weeds and remove them, effectively reducing pesticides by up to 90%.
There are even greenhouse robots that help farmers with everything from spraying to plucking fruits carefully from the plant.
Similarly, harvesting robots can identify ripe fruits from unripe ones and harvest them. These robots use imaging sensors to understand the color profiles of what they see. And, when the sensors are used in conjunction with AI, the process of identifying different elements becomes mostly automated. These robots are eventually helping farmers to reduce wastage, improve crop yield, and enhance farming efficiency.
Robots in Packaging
Robots are also being actively employed in the packaging industry. One of the most important advantages of a robot is that it is unaffected by mental or physical fatigue after working long hours.
Hence, businesses can keep their packing units running 24x7 thanks to the help of sensors with greater accuracy. Estimates show that 94% of food packaging operations now rely on robots for packaging.
The food packaging itself involves multiple robots to automate the process entirely. A pick and place robot, for example, takes a product from one place and moves it to a different location. Another robot down the line handles the process of wrapping the package.
By employing efficient robots in different stages of packing, food production units are seeing massive improvements in plant efficiency, enabling them to ship their products to retail stores faster.
Another advantage of robots in packaging is their ability to carry tremendous amounts of weight. For example, a robotic arm can carry multiple times the weight compared to humans, bringing a significant productivity improvement.
Robots in Distribution Warehousing
Robots in warehouses make operations safer and more productive. Companies that use AMRs (Autonomous Mobile Robots) can expect double-digit improvements in their KPIs like productivity, time, and inventory efficiency.
Different types of robots are already making their way to distribution warehouses and replacing traditional forklifts and warehouse equipment. Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs), Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs), Automated Guided Carts (AGCs) are some of them.
The eCommerce giant Amazon uses over 200,000 mobile robots for its warehouse operations. The reason why robots are so effective in warehousing owes to their autonomous nature. For instance, if the main desk wants a crate of fertilizer delivered to a point, a robot can be assigned to do that without requiring human supervision.
Robots in Grocery Stores and Restaurants
Robots also play an active role in grocery stores and restaurants. A robot called Marty can scan the floor for spills and communicate in Spanish and English. After a series of trials, Marty was used in 172 Giant Food Stores and 325 Stop & Shop locations in the U.S.
Robots like Millie monitor the surroundings for hazards, while robots like Tally can scan the shelves to count the stock and see if any shelf needs refilling. The SmartSight EMA50 goes a step further and can spot pricing mistakes in addition to stock levels.
The Makr Shakr is a kitchen robot that can create limitless cocktail recipes and serve guests with ease. You can find them aboard five Royal Caribbean cruise ships and at Miracle Mile Shops in Las Vegas and the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino of Biloxi, Mississippi.
With improvements in sensor technology and AI, we can expect robots to be even smarter and perform complex tasks at stores and restaurants efficiently.
The Right Components Make all the Difference
Robots are increasingly playing an active role in the food industry from farm to table. Sensors will play a vital role for this promising technology to thrive over the coming years. The reason is that robots’ capabilities ultimately depend on how accurate the embedded sensors are, as these devices eventually determine how well these intelligent machines can observe their surroundings.
The right type of sensors will enable the robots to see and differentiate between objects better. Also, accurate data from the sensor will allow the underlying AI engine to make necessary adjustments efficiently.
Hokuyo has been a pioneer in sensor technologies, providing industry-leading sensors for indoor and outdoor robotics applications. We offer a full range of industrial sensor products for factory automation, logistics automation, and process automation applications.
From collision avoidance to LiDAR, check out our range of sensors for robotics applications.