How Robotics Companies Became Leaders in Farming
There is great concern about the future of agriculture as climate change, population increase, and other challenges put pressure on farmers. Investing in technology that monitors plant and field conditions, assists with planting and harvesting, or tracks disease is a way of trying to reduce cost and increase efficiency.
Taranis is one company that provides field images and data to farmers. Its images are taken by planes and feature “forward motion compensation” which prevents motion blur. The images have a resolution of 0.3-0.5mm per pixel, which allows for incredible detail, “down to a single insect on a leaf.”
Understory also provides field data, but its focus is on precise weather information. While traditional weather satellites focus on broad areas and patterns, Understory provides “precise observations down to 100 meters.” With each of its sensors “taking 3000 measurements per second,” it is able to provide hyper-local, dense data “on everything from rainfall and hail to wind speeds, temperature, heat index,” etc. These technologies allow the farmer to make more informed decisions with greater accuracy when it comes to their crops.
Robotics also have a role to play in the agriculture of the future.
The Small Robot Company is a startup that is seeking to reduce the immense amount of energy dedicated to plowing, by eliminating the heavy machinery that makes plowing necessary in the first place. The company’s vision is that robots would care for each seed individually, which should provide “an increased yield, as well as minimal chemical usage.”
Tom, Dick, and Harry, the brand’s preliminary robots, form the basis for its future ideal three-robot teams: one robot to monitor every plant and analyze issues in the field, one to apply minute doses of chemicals to diseased plants, and one to plant individual seeds in the ground through puncture-planting.
Another agricultural application of robotics comes in the form of “soft robotics.” Soft Robotics Inc. is one of the companies pioneering robots that are no longer rigid and inflexible, but instead able to bend, adapt, and grab objects delicately and effectively.
This technology can be used to remove produce from a conveyor belt and place it into packaging, but the ability to view a field, pinpoint objects, and grasp them also allows robots to even pick apples from a tree. All of these innovations allow enormous potential for increased efficiency.
Diseases in crops and animals form one of agriculture’s most quintessential problems, but companies are innovating in this space as well.
Trace Genomics is a company that analyzes soil samples to pinpoint diseases with precision, which eliminates guesswork on the part of the farmer. Clear Labs provides a similar service when it comes to poultry by using next-generation sequencing combined with automation. This allows for “speciation, serotyping, and strain identification” in pathogen screenings with 99.9% accuracy.
EIO Diagnostics has created its own system specifically to diagnose mastitis in cows and goats without drawing samples from the animal. The company’s multispectral sensors capture an image of the animal’s udder, and that data is then used to identify “subclinical and early stage mastitis 2-4 days before a person would see physical signs in the udder or the milk.”
Using technology to diagnose diseases with increased accuracy prevents financial loss due to guesswork and early detection greatly assists farmers.
By providing the farmer with a plethora of increasingly accurate information about the conditions of his field, crops, and animals, and even assisting with labor in the form of robotics, technology is equipping farmers to face a new era of challenges head-on.
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