Will the amazing agriculture supply chain be powered to a meaningful extent by autonomous equipment technology?
Autonomous equipment, sometimes electric, has the potential to improve sustainability, solve labor shortages and increase the efficiency of the global agriculture and produce supply chain. Today, farmers and growers are actively testing and deploying globally supplied, artificial-intelligence-based autonomous equipment for growing and harvesting.
Here are seven examples.
Hopville Farms is using autonomous electric tractor technology for blueberry production in Oregon.
Jim Hoffman, Managing Partner of Hopville Farms in Independence, Oregon explained in a July press release: “We’re eager to implement Monarch’s technology into our operation as its autonomous capabilities will help improve labor productivity, while electrification will reduce our carbon footprint.”
GUSS, which stands for Global Unmanned Spray System, is marketing an autonomous orchard sprayer. The self-driving vehicles are being used for almonds, pistachios, walnuts, pecans and citrus, according to the company in a trade interview.
Augean markets the Burro, a multipurpose robot that the company describes as a “modular and expandable people-scale platform.” Used for in-field transportation today, the company touts additional tasks: towing trailers, UV-treatment, spraying/spot spraying, crop scouting/data collection, and eventually higher dexterity tasks such as picking and pruning.”
Can automated apple picking equipment make a commercial difference in the global apple industry?
FFRobotics wants the answer to be yes with its autonomous harvesting technology. In a 2021 business journal interview, Ines Hanrahan, Executive Director of the Washington State Tree Fruit Research Commission (Washington state produces the most apples in the United States), shared a vision that 50% of the the state’s orchards would be partly or fully automated in 10 years.
SwarmFarm robots are used for crop protection application, mowing and slashing. According to the company’s website: “[SwarmFarm] robots are lightweight, efficient and autonomous machines loaded with technology that allows new methods of farming that is simply not possible on the back of a tractor. Capable of operating at optimal speed and whenever the conditions are suitable for the specific operation, SwarmBots can work on their own or co-operatively as a ‘swarm’ of units across the landscape.”
XAG sells an unmanned vehicle platform that can be purposed for a variety of functions including spraying.
Multiple companies are active with technology for autonomous strawberry harvesting, including:
Harvey Chimoff is a customer-focused global business leader who connects marketing across the organization to drive performance and achieve business objectives. His B2B and CPG marketing expertise includes agribusiness, ingredients and food and beverage. Contact him at harveychimoff.com.