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Future Of Farming Blossoming At UC Davis

DAVIS (CBS13) — Researchers are looking for ways to make farming a little smarter with robots and drones that could one day revolutionize the way our food is grown.

Engineers at UC Davis are trying to be on the forefront of future farming technology.

"Smart technologies are going to allow us to be more efficient," said professor David Slaughter.

They're inventing things like a high-tech hoe that uses ultraviolet lights and cameras along with specially treated plants to trim away weeds. Computer-controlled red cutting blades open up just in time to let plant stems pass by unharmed.

The prototype uses 32 networked cameras to stereoscopically image crops, allowing growers to check a plant's temperature, water intake and insect infestation.

"Most of the farmers in California are very progressive and they are actually trying to use these technologies themselves," Slaughter said. "Whenever you have a new device, there can be a lot of skepticism."

Currently, a lot of farm labor is done manually.

"Weeding, thinning, pruning and harvesting are very labor-intensive tasks. Most of the fruits and vegetables that you get at the grocery store have been harvested by hand," he said.

But one day, robots will replace much of that labor, creating a new class of jobs, he said. The campus is also building a droneport to test crop technology in the sky. They hope to have it up and running by the fall.

"A huge advantage of a drone is that it can cover a large amount of acreage in a short amount of time," he said.

The hope is one day this research will be reproduced globally to meet the growing need for food.

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