Top 7 technologies in precision ag

Catie Noyes for Farm and Dairy: Precision agriculture and agricultural technology have come a long way in the past five to 10 years.

An Urban Farm Grows in Brooklyn

Melissa Fares for Reuters: For 12 months, farmers each get a 320-square-foot steel shipping container where they control the climate of their own farm. Under pink LED lights, they grow GMO-free greens all year round.

Piracy In The Fields: Agricultural Trade Secrets A Tempting Target

Bryan Thompson for Harvest Public Media: Agriculture today is a high-tech business, but as that technology has developed, so has the temptation to take short cuts and to steal trade secrets that could unlock huge profits.

Optical Sensors Advancing Precision in Agricultural Production

Seth Murray for Photonics.com: Emerging methods for plant phenotyping involve optical sensors - from simple RGB image sensors to NIR and Raman spectroscopy.

American Robotics Scouts Out $1.1M to Bring A.I. to Farm Drones

Frank Vinlaun for Xconomy: Drones are opening up the skies to farmers who want better ways to monitor their crops.

More Farmers Considering Drone Use

Hoosier Ag Today: A new poll finds 21 percent of farmers plan to operate a drone this year. The poll found 21 percent of farmers will operate the drone themselves, while another 12 percent of farmers indicated they would opt for a third-party entity to fly drones.

Why Robotics Will Change Agriculture

Rob Trice¬ & Seana Day¬ via Forbes: ¬ Last month as our Mixing Bowl colleagues Michael Rose and An Wang were¬ interviewing Sonny Ranaswamy¬ of the USDA's NIFA to better understand current US food and agriculture labor issues, we were representing The Mixing Bowl in discussions on potential solutions to food production labor issues through automation and robotics. At this year's RoboUniverse event in San Diego there was a full-day track on December 14th dedicated to the application of robotics to agriculture. The industry track, pulled together in great part by Nathan Dorn, CEO of Food Origins and an Advisor to The Mixing Bowl, featured a knowledgeable group of automation/robotics experts and food producers who drew on their experience to define the opportunities and sharpen focus on the challenges.¬ Nathan authored a detailed summary of the day in a¬ post on Agfunder. Our conclusion is that there is no denying that we are still in the early days of adoption of robotics in agriculture. ¬ Cont'd...

Reviving Japan's Dairy Industry, One Milking Robot at a Time

Aya Takada¬ for Bloomberg: ¬ Jin Kawaguchiya gave up a career in finance to help revive Japan's ailing dairy industry -- one robot at a time. In a country that relies increasingly on imported foods like cheese and butter, Japan's milk output tumbled over two decades, touching a 30-year low in 2014. Costs rose faster than prices as the economy stagnated, eroding profit, and aging farmers quit the business because they couldn't find enough young people willing to take on the hard labor of tending to cows every day. But technology is altering that dynamic. On the northern island of Hokkaido, Japan's top dairy-producing region, Kawaguchiya transformed the 20-cow farm he inherited from his father-in-law 16 years ago into Asia's largest automated milking factory. Robots extract the white fluid from 360 cows three times a day and make sure the animals are fed and healthy. The machines even gather up poop and deposits it in a furnace that generates electricity. ¬ Cont'd...

MIT Food Computers

From MIT: ¬ The Food Computer is a¬ controlled-environment agriculture¬ technology platform that uses robotic systems to control and monitor climate, energy, and plant growth inside of a specialized growing chamber. Climate variables such as carbon dioxide, air temperature, humidity, dissolved oxygen, potential hydrogen, electrical conductivity, and root-zone temperature are among the many conditions that can be controlled and monitored within the growing chamber. Operational energy, water, and mineral consumption are monitored (and adjusted) through electrical meters, flow sensors, and controllable chemical dosers throughout the growth period. Each specific set of conditions can be thought of as a¬ climate recipe, and each recipe produces unique results in the phenotypes of the plants. Plants grown under different conditions may vary in color, size, texture growth rate, yield, flavor, and nutrient density. Food Computers can even program biotic and abiotic stresses, such as an induced drought, to create desired plant-based expressions... (project homepage)

Japanese Firm To Open World's First Robot-run Farm

Spread , a vegetable producer, said industrial¬ robots¬ would carry out all but one of the tasks needed to grow the tens of thousands of lettuces it produces each day at its vast indoor farm in Kameoka, Kyoto prefecture, starting from mid-2017. The robots will do everything from re-planting young seedlings to watering, trimming and harvesting crops. The innovation will boost production from 21,000 lettuces a day to 50,000 a day, the firm said, adding that it planned to raise that figure to half a million lettuces daily within five years. "The seeds will still be planted by humans, but every other step, from the transplanting of young seedlings to larger spaces as they grow to harvesting the lettuces, will be done automatically," said JJ Price, Spread's global marketing manager. The new farm - an extension of its existing Kameoka farm - will improve efficiency and reduce labour costs by about half. The use of LED lighting means energy costs will be slashed by almost a third, and about 98% of the water needed to grow the crops will be recycled. The farm, measuring about 4,400 sq metres, will have floor-to-ceiling shelves where the produce is grown... ( cont'd )

Greenbot: Driverless Tractor

From¬ Greenbot: The Greenbot was introduced at the Agritechnica 2015 trade fair. The Greenbot is the first driverless machine to be developed especially for professionals working in the green sector who have to carry out repetitive tasks on a regular basis, such as working in fruit cultivation, horticulture, agriculture, or the municipal sector. ¬ The software that controls the fourwheel steering and hydraulic four-wheel drive system is userfriendly, safe and reliable. The Greenbot can be programmed to function fully independent and can be used to replicate tasks recorded in advance using a tractor with a driver. Programs can also be activated using the remote control, and then the Greenbot repeats the instructions. This mode is called 'Teach & Playback'. The Greenbot is furthermore able to independently plan its own route and operations for specific applications, such as spraying orchards or mowing public green areas... ( site )

Advances in farming robotics could address shortage in agricultural workers

By¬ Steve Brachmann¬ for IPWatchDog: ¬ More and more, the agricultural world is looking towards the mechanization of labor processes through robotics as a way of potentially increasing their productivity.¬ Robotics was identified as a sector of investment growth in agricultural tech¬ by an April 2014 white paper on agriculture technologies published by the entrepreneurship and education non-profit Kauffman Foundation.¬ Robotics¬ is a regular focus of ours here on IPWatchdog, most recently visited in¬ our coverage of the incredible advancements in walking and jumping robotics pioneered by Boston Dynamics, a¬ Google Inc.¬ (NASDAQ:GOOG) subsidiary. With American farmers already¬ heavily involved in the regulatory conversation involving the commercial use of unmanned aerial vehicles¬ (UAVs), or drones, we thought that it would be interesting to delve into the world of farming robotics and see the recent advances in that particular field. It's important to understand first that the robotics being developed for commercial use on farms won't be stand-alone humanoid units ranging through fields to pick crops. Any piece of hardware implementing an algorithm which automates some of the manual work of farming falls under this heading. One good example of this is the¬ LettuceBot, a precision thinning technology¬ which works to visually characterize plants in a lettuce row, identify which plants to keep and eliminating unwanted plants to optimize yield. The unit doesn't move by itself but is guided along by a tractor instead. The technology has been developed by Blue River Technology of Sunnyvale, CA, a company which has¬ attracted $13 million in investment between 2011 and 2014¬ to commercialize this product. The LettuceBot's creators hope toprovide the technology as a third-party service to farm owners¬ before manufacturing the unit for commercial sale. ¬ Cont'd...

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