Twenty-first century robotics and sensing technologies have the potential to solve problems as old as farming itself. “I believe, by moving to a robotic agricultural system, we can make crop production significantly more efficient and more sustainable,” says Simon Blackmore, an engineer at Harper Adams University in Newport, UK. In greenhouses devoted to fruit and vegetable production, engineers are exploring automation as a way to reduce costs and boost quality (see ‘Ripe for the picking’). Devices to monitor vegetable growth, as well as robotic pickers, are currently being tested. For livestock farmers, sensing technologies can help to manage the health and welfare of their animals (‘Animal trackers’). And work is underway to improve monitoring and maintenance of soil quality (‘Silicon soil saviours’), and to eliminate pests and disease without resorting to indiscriminate use of agrichemicals (‘Eliminating enemies’).