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"[Science fiction is] nightmares and visions, always outlined by the barely possible."
- Gregory Benford

Automatic Cultivators  
  Agricultural robots.  

High in the deep blue of the afternoon sky rode a tiny speck of glistening metal, scarce visible in the glare of the bright sun. The workers on the machines below glanced up for a moment four twenty-one it must be then back to their work, though little enough it was on these automatic cultivators. Even this little break in the afternoon program was of interest in this dull monopoly of green. But they would soon be starting back to the plantation city. These endless fields of castor bean plants had to be cultivated, but with the great machines that did the work it required but a few dozen men to cultivate an entire county. Indeed, so vast was the area, that little helicopters were even now resting on the big cultivator, that they might fly back at the end of the day, leaving the machine where it was, ready to use in the morning.
From Piracy Preferred, by John W. Campbell.
Published by Amazing Stories in 1930
Additional resources -

Compare to the conscious farm machines from The Hidden Colony (1935) by Otfrid von Hanstein, the robot farmer from The Turning Wheel (1954) by Philip K. Dick, the field minder from Who Can Replace A Man (1963) by Brian Aldiss, the Robomule from Bill the Galactic Hero (1965) by Harry Harrison, the self-guided tractor from At the Bottom of a Hole (1966) by Larry Niven, the robot crab from Neuromancer (1984) by William Gibson and the agricultural robot pest controller from Runaway (1985) by Michael Crichton.

See also the robot lawn mower from City (1944) by Clifford Simak.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Piracy Preferred
  More Ideas and Technology by John W. Campbell
  Tech news articles related to Piracy Preferred
  Tech news articles related to works by John W. Campbell

Automatic Cultivators-related news articles:
  - Robot Strolls Field, Examines EVERY Plant
  - Monarch Tractor - It's Electric, Autonomous and Smart

Articles related to Robotics
San Francisco Wants ED-209, Or Maybe Robocop
Thermite's Robot Firefighter
Project MARCH VII Exoskeleton Video
LoadRunner Robot Works Alone, Or In A Group

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