The shortage of qualified human labor is a key challenge facing farmers, limiting profit margins and preventing the adoption of sustainable and diversified agroecosystems, such as agroforestry. New technologies in robotics could offer a solution to such limitations. Advances in soft arms and manipulators can enable agricultural robots that can have better reach and dexterity around plants than traditional robots equipped with hard industrial robotic arms. Soft robotic arms and manipulators can be far less expensive to manufacture and significantly lighter than their hard counterparts. Furthermore, they can be simpler to design and manufacture since they rely on fluidic pressurization as the primary mechanisms of operation. However, current soft robotic arms are difficult to design and control, slow to actuate, and have limited payloads. In this paper, we discuss the benefits and challenges of soft robotics technology and what it could mean for sustainable agriculture and agroforestry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number6751
Issue number23
StatePublished - Nov 28 2019


  • Mechanical engineering
  • Multifunctional landscapes
  • Perennial polyculture
  • Robotics
  • Sustainable agriculture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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