As my wife and I drove down a rural Iowa highway last week, we began speculating about the next revolution in field management. Currently, tractors blindly and mechanically groom rows of crops spaced only wide enough to accommodate their massive tires. Large quantities of herbicides and insecticides are broadcast, leaching into streams and aquifers. In turn, specially bred seeds, resistant to these chemicals must be purchased as a part of a proprietary program.
Instead, I imagined swarms of spider-shaped robots with travel legs long enough to keep their body suspended above the crops. Work arms, tipped with sensors and tools, could maneuver to any spot.