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Sustainable farming practices for the 21st century

A robotics professor is transforming sustainable food production

Using intelligent systems to improve our food supply is just one of the many unexpected collaborations taking place at the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre.

Robots have long been a mainstay of science fiction. But in the 21st century they’re becoming science fact.

Professor of Robotics and Intelligent Systems, Salah Sukkarieh, is creating robots that will transform modern farming and help ensure the global food supply keeps up with a growing population.

He sees a future where robots will tend farm animals, crops and orchards, making farming more efficient and sustainable. And with a United Nations advisory panel saying food production needs to increase 60 percent by 2050, this is more important than ever.

By partnering with farmers across Australia, Professor Sukkarieh is testing robots that fly over crops and orchards to precision-spray weeds and keep herbicide use to a minimum. This ensures the soil and wider ecosystem are protected, ultimately providing us with healthier food.

Professor Sukkarieh is also collaborating with colleagues from engineering, veterinary science, agriculture, science and business, to develop new ideas and technologies that will improve our complex food production systems. The team is examining beef, dairy cattle, apples, almonds and wheat to work out how we can get the best out of harvesting, production, distribution and logistics systems while optimising nutritional quality.

The Australian Vegetable Industry’s peak body, Ausveg, recently awarded Professor Sukkarieh Researcher of the Year for his work in farm technology.