My article Are agricultural robots ready? was widely read last month. Now there are two new in-depth articles on the subject by the NY Times and San Jose Mercury News. All are informative and worth your time to read.
Working the Land and the Data, a November 30th NY Times article, shows how data dependent agriculture is becoming … and how the data is constructively used. Two quotes from the article:
“Farmers still think tech means physical augmentation — more horsepower, more fertilizer,” a medium-sized farm owner said. “They don’t see that technology now is about multiplying information.”
At a large family farm in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, Brian Braswell uses satellite-connected tractors to plow fields with accuracy of one inch between furrows. His soil was tested with electrical charges, then mapped so that fertilizer is applied in exact doses from computer-controlled machines. He uses drones, the newest new thing, to survey flood irrigation. “It would be easy to put an infrared camera on one of these and spot where crops are stressed,” Braswell said.
High-tech farming poised to change the way the world eats, a November 25th San Jose Mercury News article, focuses on the role tech and VC’s from Silicon Valley are playing in this expanding marketplace. Quoting from the article:
In the third quarter this year, venture capitalists and private equity firms invested $269 million into 41 deals in agriculture and food startups, the highest dollar amount ever in that sector and double the amount invested during the third quarter last year, according to data from the Cleantech Group. Since 2009, investments into this sector have grown an average 63 percent every year.
Some of Silicon Valley’s highest-profile investors are buying farmland to have a hand in how farmers work their fields and influence the type of food that’s available for future generations of consumers. San Francisco-based Farmland LP, which buys farms and converts them into organic pasture that crop farmers and cattle and sheep ranchers share, has attracted some of the valley’s wealthiest investors. But the draw is more than a happy vision of free-roaming cows — many investors see farmland as a safe investment to balance volatile tech investments.
There’s even a summer school on Agricultural Robotics February 2-6 in Sydney, Australia (where the seasons are reversed) initiated by the IEEE RAS, ACFR at The U of Sydney, Carnegie Mellon U, Wageningen U, U of So Queensland, John Deere’s Moline Technology Innovation Center, and the Tokyo U of Agriculture and Technology along with influential government and industry bodies including the US Dept of Agriculture (USDA), Australian Grains R&D Corporation (GRDC), Horticulture Innovation Australia Limited, and the Australian Cotton R&D Corporation.