Whilst Terminator gave us a Hollywood icon in the form of Arnold Schwarzenegger, it also seems to have given many of us an inherent fear of artificial intelligence (AI). We hear the term and we’re instantly questioning how long it will be until computers can outsmart humans and push us down the food chain. But could we be allowing fear to let us miss out on opportunities?
The horticulture industry can be somewhat slow to embrace technology as it is, and this is unlikely to change with the adoption of AI. But Husqvarna isn’t letting fear – of killer robots or failure – stop it from using the technology and hailing it as the future of green space management.
It’s not so much the ‘autonomous workforce’ that Husqvarna sees as the real opportunity – though that is, of course, part of the appeal. But it’s mostly the ability to capture data to then inform how workers – be they human or robots – to then create or manage that space that presents a chance for the industry to progress.
According to Gent Simmons, vice president of professional product management & development at Husqvarna Group, we’re on the cusp of the next industrial revolution and AI is going to change our industry for the better through an autonomous workforce that can see but also understand its surroundings.
He was speaking at Husqvarna’s ninth annual Living City event, held at the Jardin d’Acclimatation in Paris, where the Swedish outdoor power tool manufacturer launched its vision for 2033 in the form of ‘Strix’. The design concept is for a robotic mower that does more than simply cut the lawn; it can multitask in complex environments whilst capturing data, such as soil health and monitoring the success of native and non-native plant species to encourage proactive cities that are more green, sustainable and biodiverse. There’d be a few dispatched from a ‘shuttle’ each day to carry out their working day before returning to the shuttle to recharge their batteries.
Anne Marchand Guildbaud, the first female president of French network Hortis, described herself as “more old school” but could see the benefit of this data capture. Rather than taking on gardening tasks – or, God forbid, replacing the workforce – she saw it as a tool to complement gardeners and aid them in their work.
But with an industry skills shortage, replacing certain tasks isn’t such a bad thing. And whilst a swarm of robotic mowers taking over the likes of Hyde Park is a slightly ominous image, it could also allow us to make our landscapes more climate resilient and our urban green spaces better for local wildlife. I, for one, am willing to take the risk.