Developments in autonomy are enabling robotic agricultural equipment to be deployed in routine farming operations
Automation company Blue White Robotics has received substantial funding, which it plans to use in order to increase the rapid adoption of robotic farming technology, particularly in the large US market.
The objective of Blue White Robotics is to create a cohesive technology drive across all farming operations throughout the different seasons from spraying and harvesting to disking and seeding. By retrofitting existing infrastructure with intelligent autonomous algorithms, the robot tractors improve farm productivity, precision and worker safety, Blue White believes.
Additionally, the company’s autonomous platform collects and distributes data that creates new services to increase yields and reduce inputs for the continued growth of autonomous operations. The company’s values rooted in agriculture carry through all aspects of the its mission to revolutionise agriculture through autonomy.
According to Ben Alfi, co-founder and CEO of Blue White Robotics , the latest round of funding provides the company with the power to continue its vision for a safer, smarter, and more productive autonomous farm for the 21st-century.
“Our amazing team is excited by this renewed commitment to solve the many issues facing our modern farmer and the food system as a whole,” he says.
Farming is seen by some as an industry that has seen little progress since the advent of the tractor and the time has arrived for farmers to enjoy the same advancements in technology as other industries. Blue White Robotics sees itself as being in the position to fulfil that need with its autonomous agricultural platform that can convert existing farm equipment and transform it into valuable machinery for the modern age.
A Leased Service Model
More autonomous agricultural equipment manufacturers are coming into existence as the industry sees the potential. Many farming tasks are equipment intensive, repetitive and labour intensive so the potential to automate can improve efficiencies and overcome difficulties with labour shortages.
High technology farming equipment is nonetheless expensive and sometimes only used sparingly throughout the full season so there’s some resistance to large capital outlay without the swift returns.
Farm equipment leasing companies go some way towards improving accessibility to the latest equipment, enabling farmers to rent equipment by the day with more predictable and affordable cost structures.
Blue White Robotics takes a third approach. Rather than supplying capital equipment, it provides an autonomous platform consisting of a conversion kit for existing equipment plus the computing service allowing the equipment to be operated and monitored remotely – Autonomy-as-a-Service.
The company can also help with setting up the infrastructure and ensuring that the fast data connectivity requirements are catered for. The USA in particular has vast rural territories, which are the most lucrative to automate but also the most difficult in terms of establishing and maintaining the necessary high bandwidth data connectivity.
Automation by degrees
An advantage of the Robotic-Farming-as-a-Service approach is the ability to take a gradual approach to the tasks that will be automated. Blue White Robotics believes in starting with simpler tasks like spraying initially until the farm management has become accustomed to the approach and operators are comfortable with operating and monitoring equipment remotely.
Once the easier assignments have been mastered, the use of automation can then be increased with more equipment modification and less intervention by operators. Through this approach, technology can continue to be added until higher degrees of automation are achieved.