Google reveals Mineral crop-inspecting robots
Google's parent company, Alphabet, has unveiled prototype robots that can inspect individual plants in a field, to help farmers improve crop yields.
The robot buggies roll through fields on upright pillars, so they can coast over plants without disturbing them.
The goal is to collect huge amounts of data about how crops grow.
Called Project Mineral, it is part of Alphabet's X company, which aims to create world-changing technology from radical "moonshot" ideas.
"We hope that better tools will enable the agriculture industry to transform how food is grown,” said Elliott Grant, who leads the project.
The team says its main goal is to address the world's increasing need for food and the sustainability of growing it.
But current tools do not give farmers the kind of information they need.
"What if every single plant could be monitored and given exactly the nutrition it needed?" said Grant, in a blog post.
"What if we could untangle the genetic and environmental drivers of crop yield?"
While farmers may have information about the soil content or the weather, the buggy robot was designed to see how plants were "actually growing and responding to their environment", the company said.
"Over the past few years, the plant buggy has trundled through strawberry fields in California and soybean fields in Illinois, gathering high quality images of each plant and counting and classifying every berry and every bean," it said.
In addition to counting beans, the buggy can also record information such as plant height, leaf area and fruit size.