For centuries, Asian rice farmers have used ducks as natural alternative to pesticides. By paddling in the flooded rice fields, ducks pull out weeds and nibble insects, their manure even constituting an additional fertilizer. In the 21st century, this practice is not widespread, but a new technological approach to the method could change that.
An engineer working for the Japanese manufacturer Nissan has built an alternative robot to rice paddies. As reported by Nippon.com and Nerdist, He is currently testing his prototype in Yamagata prefecture, northeastern Japan. It seems like it's just a DIY project at the moment, with no marketing plan or even any data on its effectiveness, but it's still a fascinating use of technology.
The Aigamo robot owes its name to the duck race used in the modern version of this ancient practice. (You can read more about the evolution of rice and duck culture in modern Japan right here.) The robot weighs 1.5 kg and is about the size of a big robot vacuum cleaner. On the underside, two rotating rubber brushes replace the legs of a duck. They oxygenate the water by shaking it and preventing weeds from taking root.
You can watch a video of the robot in action above. Unfortunately, there are no English subtitles to fully explain what we see. It is still an adorable robot that manages to combine old and new agricultural techniques. In Japan, where rice is grown threat by reducing and aging its population, it could help a culturally important industry survive in the 21st century.