by Kiran Mainali (Student – MBA Agribusiness)
King’s College, a pioneer institution of agri-entreprenurship organized a talk program on Agricultural automation and robotics; global perspectives and Nepal’s contexts on 5th July, 2019. The program was facilitated by Prof. Manoj Karkee (PhD) from Washington State University, USA. There were around 100 participants from different colleges, institutions, and organizations who were directly or indirectly involved in the agricultural sector, agribusiness or Information Technology (IT).
Prof. Karkee shared his decade long research works, projects that he has been designing and implementing in the field of agriculture automation at Washington State University. Karkee devoted his time on different projects in the stream of agriculture automation such as automated harvesting of varieties of orchard crops, two different Apple harvesting smart machine. He is continuously improvising feasible and practical robotic machine with high-performance efficiency. There are several contributions from Prof. Karkee to agriculture automation industry such as Robotic Apple Harvester, Targeted shake and Catch apple harvester, Appletree training device. He has also designed apple pruning machine, blossom thinning, Green shooting thinning in wine grapes, Red Raspberry cane building and tying, Smart micro-irrigation projects. These products has been successfully designed, tested and implemented to enhance the efficiency of the agriculture sector.
Prof. Karkee suggested a need for a paradigm shift in agricultural field through smart intelligent agriculture (Agriculture 4.0) where farm mechanization, precision agricultural management system, and automation or robotics activities that functions simultaneously to enhance the efficiency of agricultural productivity with minimum utilization of environmental and human resources.
Nepal is gradually adapting modern technological amendments, Prof. Karkee emphasizes Nepal to buckle by introducing robotics and automation in the farming and harvesting activities to enhance the overall productivity of the products and commodities by a significant proportion. However, adopting robotics in the agricultural domain in context of Nepal is not going to be easier task to accomplish because of terrain difficulty, farm sizes, limited labour, skilled manpower availability and conventional agricultural culture practiced in the country. If the current scenario is overseen, agricultural mechanization alone cannot bring drastic innovation expected in agricultural practices.
In a nutshell, despite having so many hurdles in the field of implementation of automation and robotics in the context of Nepal, it needs to work out in agriculture ecosystem through various collaborations with human resource and government sector. Agriculture 4.0 system in agriculture needs to be initiated utilizing experts from different universities, researchers, IT and AI experts in the agriculture sector. This would support the country’s economy and contribute in youths employment sector gradually changing the entire agricultural ecosystem in Nepal.