The aging adage, "there's an app for that," is evolving into, "there's a robot for that." More and more automation is finding its way to the market for household chores like cleaning floors, and now that innovation is in farmer's fields with Odd.Bot, an automatic weeding robot. Odd.Bot made an appearance at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last month with an informational booth and the weed-plucking device on display. Martijn Lukaart, Founder and CEO, explains that Odd.Bot is currently intended for use in organic farming fields to make the weed-pulling process easier for large farms who currently do all the work by hand. Many large-scale farmers have already invested in a platform that allows workers to lay face down on a bed as they are propelled through the rows of crops.
Cities around the world are getting smarter. Already, street lights in places like San Diego are turning off, and conserving energy, when vehicles and pedestrians aren't around. Soon, connected garbage cans will tell waste haulers when they need to be emptied, optimizing collection routes. Smart buildings will notify maintenance staff of impending repair needs. And parking spots will find you, instead of the other way around.
UK artificial intelligence company Exscientia has added another big pharma company to its partner roster, with Bayer seeking to use its platform to find new cardiovascular and cancer drugs. Bayer is pledging up to €240 million ($266 million) in upfront fees, ongoing research funding and clinical milestone payments under the terms of the three-year deal. The collaboration will use AI to accelerate discovery of small molecule drug candidates against targets in oncology and cardiovascular disease, with Bayer claiming rights to the compounds and Dundee-based Exscientia eligible for royalties on sales if they reach the market. Cancer and heart disease are at the forefront of Bayer's R&D focus along with women's health, haematology and ophthalmology. For eight-year-old Exscientia, Bayer joins a growing list of drugmakers who see its AI platform as a way to accelerate drug discovery and improve drug development productivity, potentially trimming years off the current 12 to 15 year cycle from early research to marketed product.
Farmers may soon have an alternative to spraying their fields with chemicals, as Small Robot Company and RootWave, two UK-based agritech startups, today announced a partnership to develop a high-precision robot that can kill weeds with a zap of electricity. Small Robot has already developed a series of small, agricultural robots, called Tom, Dick and Harry, which can automate some of the routine tasks of farming. Tom, a scouting robot similar to the Mars Rover, for example, uses computer vision to map the weeds in a field, covering about 20 hectares a day. Dick, a weeding robot, can already remove unwanted plants with either a micro-dose of pesticide or by physically crushing them, but the next stage will be to combine this with technology from RootWave, which destroys weeds by with an electric current, essentially boiling them from the inside out. "Farmers are really desperate for an alternative to the chemical control of weeds," says Sam Watson Jones, the chief executive of Small Robot Company.
Medopad, the UK startup that has been working with Tencent to develop AI-based methods for building and tracking "digital" biomarkers -- measurable indicators of the progression of illnesses and diseases that are picked up not with blood samples or in-doctor visits but using apps and wearables, has announced another round of funding to expand the scope of its developments. It has picked up $25 million led by pharmaceuticals giant Bayer, which will be working together with Medopad to build digital biomarkers and therapeutics related to heart health. Medopad said it is also working on separate biomarkers related to Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and Diabetes. The Series B is being made at a post-money valuation of between $200 million and $300 million. In addition to Bayer, Hong Kong firm NWS Holdings and Chicago VC Healthbox also participated.
Farmers have always collected and evaluated a large amount of data each growing season. It started in ledger books. Then it was moved to spreadsheets, which were eventually saved on USB drives. Now, we have real-time reports enabled by field monitoring equipment, enriched by artificial intelligence (AI), and available to farmers on tablets and smartphones. New digital tools offer farmers customized insights with a few taps on a screen.
Bayer has continued its policy of setting up R&D hubs to get closer to innovative companies with a UK site that will focus on applying artificial intelligence to drug discovery and disease diagnosis. The cluster – based at Reading's Green Park – is the seventh in the German company's LifeHub network, located at R&D hot spots around the globe, and is further evidence of the UK's leading position in AI technology. According to the Tech Nation 2019 report, the UK is today the world's third biggest market for AI investment after the US and China with funding rising six-fold since 2014. Bayer already has one company getting ready to set up a unit at LifeHub UK. Sensyne Health, which started working with the German group earlier this year, will base a project focusing on applying AI to automate image evaluation in radiology at the site.
FarmWise announced today that it has raised a $14.5 million Series A round of funding for its autonomous agriculture robots. The round was led by Calibrate Ventures with participation from Wilbur Ellis, Xplorer Capital and Alumni Ventures Group. This brings the total amount raised by FarmWise to $20.2 million. Farmwise builds self-driving robots that use a combination of computer vision and AI to identify weeds among crops and precision mechanical tools to remove them without the need for herbicides. According to the press release sent to The Spoon, FarmWise says its robots have removed weeds from more than 10 million plants.
Yet what makes a career at Bayer so interesting is more than just the opportunity to work in an international company. At Bayer, a "job" becomes a part of your life, which is also due to our additional offers. Bayer's economic success can be largely attributed to the knowledge, skills and dedication of our employees. True to Bayer's employer brand "Passion to innovate Power to change." We create a working environment where everyone can utilize their full potential, drive forward innovations and achieve an excellent performance.
A particularly exciting subject is machine learning. The idea of cognitive artificial intelligence sounds simple yet revolutionary. However, its application at Bayer is proving to be more difficult than expected, and is not fully implemented at the present stage. Do you have an idea for a new use of machine learning in everyday work? Could machine learning perhaps improve data quality, automatic processes, or even flexible pricing strategies?