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robohub focus on agricultural robotics

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University of Colorado’s robotic plant growth is demonstrated at the Kennedy Space Center. Source: NASA.

Targeting a sustainable presence of humans in outer space will require solving air, water, energy, and food supplies within a few thousand cubic feet surrounded by vacuum. What seems at first sight to be a problem of an apocalyptic, remote future reveals itself as the grand challenges of our civilization in a nutshell. This article argues that space exploration can be one of the main drivers to revolutionize sustainable agriculture on earth.

interview by   -   November 3, 2013

In this episode Sabine Hauert speaks with Jorge Heraud, CEO of California-based startup Blue River Technology which brings together computer vision and robotics to automate agriculture. Their first robot LettuceBot targets the state’s #1 vegetable crop. Its task is to thin rows of lettuce in fields. This involves selectively removing some of the plants by spraying excess fertilizer on them, thereby avoiding overcrowding while fertilizing nearby plants. The tractor-mounted robot is already being rented out to farms across the state.

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Photo credit: Patrick Egan.

There are bushels of folks out there now spending money and putting time in finding niches for unmanned systems that already exist. You may be saying, isn’t that what we should be doing? Possibly, but first we have to understand that the idea of carrying sensors on aircraft is not revolutionary, it has been going on for years. Drones too, but we are supposed to act like it doesn’t happen because FAA policy says so.

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Yamaha is testing spraying vineyards in Napa Valley through a COA with the FAA. Photo courtesy Yamaha Corp.

With the global market for unmanned systems in agriculture on the rise, companies that make robotic ground and air systems are paying close attention.

More than 25,000 “field” or agriculture robots will be sold by 2015 — about the same as robots for military use, according to the International Federation of Robotics. Together, defense and agriculture make up the lion’s share of the nearly 94,000 “service robots for professional use” that the IFR believes will be sold in the next couple of years. Defense and agriculture are by far the two largest categories in IFR calculations, with robots for things like logistics, medicine and rescue coming in well behind.

by   -   October 25, 2013

The mechanical arm

No, this is not about shapeshifting robots, come to save or destroy Earth. It is about transforming the contexts within which robotic technologies are applied, and about practicing robotics with the intention of bringing about transformational results. In some cases this means finding better ways of accomplishing the same ends as before. In other cases it means pursuing ends that were previously unachievable. It hinges on the recognition that robotics is a revolutionary development, on the order of fire or writing, with the potential to transform everything it touches.

by   -   October 24, 2013

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‘Drones in agriculture’ has been a topic hot lately, but is it a real business?

As a former Army UAV platoon leader and a current founder of an aerial data collection start-up, I believe so, but when I first got back from Afghanistan, I did not see how drones could be a big thing in agriculture. WHY? I still do not see how the “pilotless app” makes a decisive difference in most civilian applications.  Yet as I expanded my view of a drone to be any flying network node — be it piloted or unpiloted, in the air or in space — I started to see how drone technology could deliver data that creates real value.

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Two robots follow boundary markers on either side of an irrigation pipe. Photo credit: Harvest Automation.

In mid-2012, four HV-100 robots from Harvest Automation achieved an elusive milestone in robotics: the robots were purchased by a customer and began everyday farm work.  HV-100s, also known as Harvey robots, distribute and collect container-grown plants in greenhouses and on large nursery farms.  Since their introduction, more growers have adopted Harveys, and to date, Harvey robots have moved well over three million plants.

The first crop robots to achieve commercial relevance are now entering service in the nursery and greenhouse sector of agriculture.  Contrary to popular imagination, expert prediction, and much academic research, the first successful agricultural robots are engaged in activities other than fruit and vegetable picking or row crop maintenance.  This article examines the forces that drive the choice of application for commercial robots, describes an early agricultural robot, and suggests areas for further development.

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3D Robotics’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing John Cherbini prepares to launch a plane at Small Vines Wines in Sebastopol, Ca Sept. 13, 2013. The plane can help day-to-day operations on a farm via aerial imagery. Photo credit: Sally French, 3D Robotics.

Hear the word “drone” today and you’ll probably picture some kind of flying weapon, snooping or raining Hellfire missiles from above. But in reality, the first drones you’re likely to see actually in use are more likely to be closer to crop dusters, buzzing over farms. Rather than taking pictures and videos of people, they’ll be surveying fields, using their high-resolution sensors to improve crop yield and decrease agricultural water and chemical use.

interview by   -   October 18, 2013

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FutureDairy is an R&D development program to help Australian dairy farmers manage the challenges they are likely to face during the next 20 years. In this episode, Ron Vanderkley speaks with the project lead Kendra Kerrisk from the University of Sydney about robotic milking and herding.

AUVSI_Mission Critical_Ag_timeline_historyWith an ever-increasing need to feed the world’s hungry, the agricultural sector has long been an important boon to the field of robotics: the sector’s widespread acceptance and use of automation technologies has already become an important engine for robotic R&D and business activity, and labour shortages in many food-growing regions combined with an increasing public demand for more targeted, responsible pesticide and fertilizer use will further incentivize the agricultural sector to invest in robotics and automation.





Privacy, Google, and big deals
March 7, 2014


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