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Robot-Readable Gardens
If you enjoyed yesterday's mini film series on topiary robotics, you might also be interested in another line-up on garden machinery presented by Tuinbouw Technisch Atelier BV, a Dutch company (obviously) that advertises itself as “a leading supplier of equipment for handling and selection of young plants and other equipment for growers and industries.” At least for their most recent uploads, the videos are more slick, soundtracked with post-rock, and of higher quality, which make them not at all out of place in a Ron Fricke glorified slideshow, in the them-whacky-humans section.

This is their CombiFix, which is outfitted with a “unique vision selection system.” You can briefly see it from 0:27 reading the electromagnetic spectrum for glitches in these mobile, robot-readable gardens, or at least aberrations according to its programming.

The ways in which ornamental plants, vegetables and fruits have been standardized by way of, among other things, industrial efficiency, institutional regulations, globalization and capricious aesthetics, are endlessly fascinating to think about, so it would definitely be interesting to speculate how such machines and their computer vision will someday affect changes to our ornamentals and food. Will the future orange be redesigned to make it more readable to the LIDAR scanners of fruit-picking machines? Will tomatoes inscribe themselves with vegeglyphs, the agricultural variety of these home “machine-hieroglyphs”?

In any case, here's their FlexPlanter. The video is interrupted by a buyer raving about the machine, how “[b]efore, this process was done by many people” but “now 3 people are sufficient” and perhaps still “two additional persons” can be put out of work. So one second you're in reverie, and the next second you're skirting through issues of weighty importance, like migrant farm labor, immigration and the rural austerity diaspora. (As an aside, the urban youths escaping the econopocalyptic city, searching employment in ancestral farmsteads, only to find them overrun by agrobots, is a story worth fleshing out.)

Of course, I'd like to see these planters go mobile (sentient or simply autonomous), as a kind of Johnny Appleseed peacenik version of DARPA's Big Dog. All day and all night, in landscapes denuded of vegetation by wildfires or some other cataclysmic event, perhaps on extraterrestrial landscapes, they'll be tippity tap tapping seedlings into the earth (or Martian regolith), doubling back once in a while to patch up glitches in the garden.
  • Anonymous
  • February 2, 2013 at 9:24:00 PM CST
  • Thanks for this follow up to the automated pruner post. It is always interesting to see how technology affects the gardens and landscapes a society produces. I can just imagine waking up one morning to find a rogue garden maintenance machine has cleanup up my messy yard.

  • Elliott Bledsoe
  • February 9, 2013 at 9:18:00 PM CST
  • vegeglyphs? interesting idea. saw this photo in my friend's instagram feed last night, fruitglyph...

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