A behemoth of a worker, recently recognized by a national publication, that can meticulously and precisely remove weeds growing between sprouting crops is being employed on farms in California and Arizona. Time magazine recently placed the FarmWise Titan FT-35 on its list of Best Inventions of 2020. It is an automated mechanical weeder that can help substitute the pass of a hand-weeding crew, which usually has 10 to 15 people. FarmWise has its operations headquarters, or home base for its team and machines, in Salinas and an office in San Francisco that houses most of its engineers. The company works with farming operations in the Salinas Valley such as Dole and Braga Fresh, plus dozens of other customers.
Editor's Note: Robotics Business Review's coverage emphasizes innovation, including start-up companies (or'young' companies). RBR "Start-Up Profiles" highlight individual start-up companies using a consistent, templated format that makes for quick, yet informed reading, that also simplifies comparative analysis. Funding Status – $20.2 million raised so far (Series A) FarmWise builds innovative systems and processes to streamline farm operations and increase food production efficiency. Technology / Product / Service(s) – For vegetable growers who face increased growing costs and new regulatory pressures, FarmWise builds innovative systems and processes to streamline farm operations and increase food production efficiency. FarmWise's first product, an automated mechanical weeder powered by AI and robotics has captured more than 100 million crop images. Today, it is offered as a service to vegetable growers in California and Arizona.
Cattle farmers have been incorporating new technologies into their management of cows for years now, using everything from facial recognition to milking robots. But the internet went wild in late November when a story about Russian farmers using virtual reality goggles on cows went viral. While that story was treated with a fair amount of skepticism from farmers and experts, it did bring a spotlight to the many ways cattle farmers are using technology to reduce the carbon footprint of cows and make farm management more sustainable. "Cows are one of the most important areas that we need to improve tech applications to, principally because on a global agricultural systems basis, cows are our single best source of recycling waste nutrients," said David Hunt, co-founder of Cainthus, an agritech company, based in Dublin, California and Ottawa, focusing on digitizing agricultural practices with computer vision and AI. "The criticism of cows that is valid is the methane emissions that go with cows and one of the most important areas in agricultural tech is reducing those methane emissions."
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.
Vegetables sold by California-based startup Iron Ox might be organic, but the farmer cultivating them is far from it. The company behind the robotic and hydroponic farming system is now taking the first step towards going to market in California. According to a report from The Verge, Iron Ox is partnering with Bay Area produce purveyors Bianchini's Market, to put several varieties of its robot-grown leaf greens on shelves for the first time. For now, Iron Ox's greens will come in the three different varieties: red-veined sorrel, Genevieve basil, and baby lettuce, at prices that are competitive with those at shoppers' average Whole Foods. Iron Ox will begin selling its robot-farmed produce in California for the first time.
A cow stands in a pasture on Seven Oaks Dairy in Waynesboro, Ga. On the cow's neck is a device called IDA, or "The Intelligent Dairy Farmer's Assistant," created by Connecterra. It uses a motion-sensing device attached to a cow's neck to transmit its movements to a program driven by artificial intelligence. SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Is the world ready for cows armed with artificial intelligence? No time to ruminate on that because the moment has arrived, thanks to a Dutch company that has married two technologies -- motion sensors and AI -- with the aim of bringing the barnyard into the 21st century.
Alphabet's X, the secretive lab charged with finding radical "moonshot" solutions to some of the world's biggest problems, is exploring ways in which AI could dramatically improve food production. Astro Teller, the head of X, revealed the plan at MIT Technology Review's annual EmTech Digital event in San Francisco. Teller declined to give specific examples, saying X's team hadn't yet zeroed in on particular approaches, but he hinted that it was looking at how machine learning could be combined with advances in areas like drones and robotics to advance farming practices. To be worthy of X's attention, a project must fulfill three criteria: it has to potentially solve a problem that affects millions or billions of people; it has to involve an audacious, sci-fi-sounding technology; and there has to be at least a glimmer of hope it's achievable within five to 10 years. AI-driven agriculture seems a perfect fit.
Jeff Heepke knows where to plant corn on his 4,500-acre farm in Illinois because of artificial intelligence (AI). He uses a smartphone app called Climate Basic, which divides Heepke's farmland (and, in fact, the entire continental U.S.) into plots that are 10 meters square. The app draws on local temperature and erosion records, expected precipitation, soil quality, and other agricultural data to determine how to maximize yields for each plot. If a rainy cold front is expected to pass by, Heepke knows which areas to avoid watering or irrigating that afternoon. As the U.S. Department of Agriculture noted, this use of artificial intelligence across the industry has produced the largest crops in the country's history. Climate Corporation, the Silicon Valley–based developer of Climate Basic, also offers a more advanced AI app that operates autonomously. If a storm hits a region, or a drought occurs, it adjusts local yield numbers downward.
At 180 years old, John Deere has become a household name that conjures images of farmland, tractors and rural America. But what's less known about the iconic company is that it's become a leading tech innovator in the precision agriculture space, and in many ways, serves as an example of how every business is digital. A year ago, John Deere bought a Silicon Valley-based artificial intelligence (AI) startup called Blue River, and it's now working to incorporate machine learning, deep learning, and robotics into the brains of its farm equipment. The goal is to use automated driving technology, computer vision, telematics, and cloud-based mobile applications to help farmers double or triple their yields -- a feat that will be key to keeping up with global food demands as the Earth's population grows over the next thirty years. "By 2050, there's going to be nine billion people on the planet," said Terry Pickett, manager of advanced engineering for John Deere's Intelligent Solutions Group.
Alphabet Inc.'s GOOGL 0.86% Nest Labs in September announced a doorbell equipped with a Qualcomm Inc. QCOM 0.27% chip, a video camera and facial-recognition software that can send an alert to a Nest mobile app if it sees a familiar face. The market for computer-vision systems is nascent, poised to expand from roughly $1 billion last year to $2.6 billion in 2021, according to International Data Corp. Emerging products such as autonomous vehicles and personal robots portend continuing growth, and Intel Corp. INTC 0.25%, Qualcomm and other chip makers are jockeying to supply the brains to new machines. "These [applications] are edging into viability," said IDC analyst Michael Palma. "Maybe not mass viability, but very, very close."