Farming is time-intensive, back-breaking, tiring work--so why not leave it to the robots? A group of MIT students are doing just that with a cluster of tomato plants placed on artificial turf.
The students' "precision agriculture" system has 2 components: a device that allows each plant to broadcast its physical state, and a robot outfitted with an arm that dispenses water and nutrients, pollinates the plants, and even picks tomatoes when they're ripe. The plants can also request water when they are thirsty, and can ask for nutrients when they need food.
Small grains and hay are already harvested in a partially-mechanized process, but the MIT system is a first for fruits and vegetables. Eventually, the MIT-ers hope to develop an automated greenhouse with robots, pots, and plants that all talk to one another.
To be sure, the robotic system will be celebrated by fruit and vegetable suppliers, but it will spell bad news for farm workers. It's not hard to imagine the day that hand-picked veggies will be a specialty item.