Grafting plants is a delicate process mostly used in asexual propagation of plants. It is tedious and time-consuming even for skilled laborers in the horticulture and agriculture industry to successfully manage to fuse two parts of a plant and hope for it to grow into a new one. But now, a robot (no surprise) can do this task efficiently and in fact much faster than any skilled gardener.
A team of scientists at Clemson University’s Coastal Research Center, led by vegetable expert Richard Hassell, has modified a Korean-manufactured robot and designed a system than allows it to fully handle 50 grafts per minute, or a total of 3,000 per hour. An output equivalent of more or less 24 skilled workers working on a cucurbit (e.g. a melon, pumpkin or cucumber), or a dozen of tomato grafters working in one hour.
Hassell’s robot gardener can perform precise cuts and do grafts even with the most sensitive plants, thereby reducing the high failure rate, at a swift pace. “This reduces labor costs while at the same time enhancing healthy and robust growth because the same clean cut is made every time.”
The robot gardener will be one of many examples of “reducing labor costs”. and improving quality we are going to see over the coming years and decades. This post is a perfect example of the yin/yang of this type of automation – production goes up meaning cheaper and higher quality product for humans at the expense of human’s jobs.