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Since the earliest commercialization of yield monitors and variable rate technology in the early 1990s, precision agriculture (PA) has struggled with the quantity of data to be analyzed, understood and acted on. To facilitate analysis and management, early PA researchers and developers aggregated data and decision making into grids or management zones for crops, and pens or grazing zones for livestock. As PA moves toward individual plant or animal management, grid, zone, and pen management will be obsolete. Robotics and automation would allow them to implement crop and livestock management at the same level of detail as their data. The challenge we face with the current development is that but most of the agricultural robotics being commercialized have very little decision making capacity. They mostly follow preprogrammed field paths. In crop farming, companies are starting to advertise artificial inteligence (AI) use in machine vision technology to target apply herbicides, in guiding fungicide application by predicting plant disease infestations and in helping combine harvester operators optimize machine settings. The agricultural sector has lagged behind other industries in embracing autonomous systems, robots, multi-sensor data fusion, big data analytics, and AI. The full realization of these technological innovations in agriculture now and in the future will require transdisciplinary collaboration efforts, development of solutions accessible to types of farmers and operations, implementation of real-time interoperability services, as well as training of the future workforce of scientists and users. The symposium we propose will provide a space where academia, industry, funding agencies, and other stakeholders can exchange knowledge on emerging trends and research and identify challenges and opportunities in the fields of automation and robotics. It will also serve as a forum to discuss opportunities for collaboration and to identify the governmental programs and infrastructure needed to realize the full potential of these innovations in agriculture.

Fulton, J. P.
International Society of Precision Agriculture
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