Robots ready to take over ornamental plant business

By Muriel Kane
Sunday, November 13, 2011 20:33 EDT
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Ornamental plants are in demand by landscaping firms, building contractors, and retail businesses, but the industry which supplies them has never benefited from automation.

Now, especially with harsh immigration laws making immigrant labor less available, robots may be about to take over the job of loading and unloading the trucks which carry potted plants

Wired reports that a number of robotics experts have been working on developing a small, mobile robot that can handle garden materials. The Massachusetts startup Harvest Automation is already testing a prototype robot at nurseries around the country and expects to release it commercially next year.

“The Harvest Automation robots are knee-high, wheeled machines,” Wired explains. “Each robot has a gripper for grasping pots, a deck for carrying pots, and an array of sensors to keep track of where it is and what’s around it. Teams of robots zip around nursery fields, single-mindedly spacing and grouping plants. Think Wall-E without the doe eyes and cuddly personality, or the little forest-tending ‘bots in the 1972 sci-fi classic Silent Running.”

Muriel Kane
Muriel Kane
Muriel Kane is an associate editor at Raw Story. She joined Raw Story as a researcher in 2005, with a particular focus on the Jack Abramoff affair and other Bush administration scandals. She worked extensively with former investigative news managing editor Larisa Alexandrovna, with whom she has co-written numerous articles in addition to her own work. Prior to her association with Raw Story, she spent many years as an independent researcher and writer with a particular focus on history, literature, and contemporary social and political attitudes. Follow her on Twitter at @Muriel_Kane
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