Robocrop? Farmers get a peek at future high-tech labour savers

193
Chuck Baresich

Calvi Leon/Local Journalism Initiative

Southwestern Ontario farmers got a glimpse of three leading-edge robotic devices aimed at solving challenges facing the agriculture industry.

An emerging agriculture robotics company, Haggerty AgRobotics, teamed up with agri-investment agency RH Accelerator and The Grove, an agri-food hub at Western Fair District Friday, to showcase three new robots designed to combat the industry’s ongoing labour shortage and reduce use of chemicals on crops.

“What these robots allow farmers to do, is . . . keep their existing staff and use a robot to supplement when they need labour for a very short period,” said Chuck Baresich, Haggerty’s general manager and founder.

The robot is especially beneficial for completing “repetitive, menial tasks over and over again,” such as weeding, he said.

“The robot doesn’t care,” he said. “It doesn’t care how hot it is, what time of day it is. It will just keep on weeding all day long.”

Two of the electric farm robots on display are intended to be used for non-chemical weeding, while the third is primarily for soil testing.

“Most of these technologies have never been shown in Ontario before,” said Joe Dales, co-founder of RH Accelerator and an event organizer. “It’s (about) making sure farmers and agribusinesses . . . know that these technologies are coming to Ontario and that we’re at the forefront of adoption.”

Though the long-term hope is to integrate robots into farming, the technology must be developed and tested before hitting the market, Dales added.

Friday’s three-hour event drew about 100 farmers, agri-businesses, researchers and students to The Grove, kicking off with a Haggerty presentation about its plans to augment the farm workforce with robotics.

Echoing Dales, Baresich said his company wants to make Southwestern Ontario “an innovation hub,” where researchers and industry leaders “recognize that we should be building these things here.”

“We won’t have to bring them in,” he said. “We’re trying to illustrate there’s a market for this here and people are interested.”

London Free Press

The Local Journalism Initiative supports the creation of original civic journalism that covers the diverse needs of underserved communities across Canada.