There is a garden full of lush vegetables, grown with love and care by a tireless gardener who doesn't wear the typical straw hat, has rough hands or a face marked by the sun. In this garden, the gardener is a robot: it's called AlphaGarden and was developed by Simeon Adebola and colleagues at the University of California.
Agriculture revolutionized by AI
AlphaGarden doesn't just sow, water and prune vegetables in the garden, it also challenges humans: or at least it did in tests to evaluate its effectiveness. The ring? Two plots of land that housed eight varieties of edible vegetables including chard and radicchio. The stakes? Prove that even a robot gardener can have a green thumb.
And how did it end? Well. After two "rounds" of 60 days each, the showdown was merciless to say the least. AlphaGarden not only held its own against its human adversaries in terms of plant cover and diversity, it shined in efficiency. The robot gardener has saved as much as 40% of the water compared to its real-life contenders.
Yes, but take it easy, "gardener"
It must be said: the "phenomenon" needed (on only two occasions) a small human intervention to get it off the hook. And for this reason he cannot lord it over singing victory.
Not yet, at least. Nonetheless, Adebola and his colleagues are optimistic and full of ambition. Their dream? Extend AlphaGarden's capabilities to a wider range of plant varieties and also adapt it to thevertical farming.
It would be a hit. In the agricultural landscape, the cultivation of different species in the same area is less common, because it requires more manpower. AlphaGarden could make a difference by making multi-crop farming, which requires fewer pesticides and better preserves soil minerals, more affordable and sustainable.
Work on it: it has a cold thumb, but it's still green.