The U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture has awarded about $3 million in grants for research to advance robotics in U.S. agriculture.

The four grants are part of the National Robotics Initiative, a federal-led research effort, according to a news release.

The four awards for fiscal year 2014 are:

• Georgia Tech, Atlanta—$900,498. This project will develop robotic technology to collect leaves and soil samples.

• University of Illinois-Urbana—$532,607. The goal of this project is to cooperative networks of human operators and robotic mobile platforms for use in highly variable terrains and soil conditions. It also will look at interchangeable tools, platforms and crops.

• Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pa.—$556,726. This project will work to develop detect and track people in agricultural environments, which is a requirement for deploying robotic ag equipment in many applications.

• Washington State University, Pullman—$1.01 million. This research is focused on creating robot-human and robot-environmental interfaces needed to build an intelligent bin-managing system for tree-fruit orchards.