Blue River: Making Ag Robots A Reality

Go ahead and picture it in your head, if only for a second: the picturesque Iowa countryside (or whichever Corn Belt state you prefer). Vibrant, rolling acre-upon-acre of downright handsomely-sown corn and soybeans, all being tended by teams of fully-autonomous robotic “farmers.” Sound pretty far-fetched?

Not if you’re Blue River Technology, Mountain View, CA, CEO Jorge Heraud.

You see, Heraud has attended this particular rodeo before. The former head of engineering and precision agriculture at Trimble Navigation was intimately involved in the early development of the first automatic steering products in agriculture. Heraud would meet with interested farmers throughout the Midwest for ride-and-drives, tell them they needed auto-steer on their tractor and then listen to them tell him that he’s crazy.

“It’s just very satisfying to see a technology – I remember many of the farmers I first talked with about auto steer thought I was talking Star Wars – it’s tremendously satisfying to see that technology come to market and become standard,” he says. “And I think you’re going to see the same type of situation with robotics in agriculture.”

Heraud’s outfit is looking to integrate what he calls “computer vision” and robotic technologies into large-scale row-crop agriculture, and they’ve already made some headway in that regard in California’s lettuce industry with robotic lettuce thinning technology.

Blue River’s first commercialized product, the lettuce thinning “bots” use advanced imaging technology to decide on a plant-by-plant basis which plants are ideal for yield and which aren’t. Blue River already has placed the technology with a few select ag retailers in California, and predictably they are quite impressed.

“They’re just blown away by how quickly the machine can go through the lettuce fields and still do a quality job,” says Heraud.

Heraud and Blue River’s next project is finding a way of integrating that technology, currently in the concept stages, into the corn and soybean markets, specifically in the areas of plant breeding and weed control.

“Our motto as a company is ‘Every Plant Counts’ and nowhere in agriculture is that statement more applicable than in plant breeding,” he says. “Every plant has a different genetic makeup and you’re trying to understand the phenotype of each plant. This technology would help breeders make better breeding decisions, as well as make the task more efficient.”H

Heraud foresees the Phenobots, as they are being called while in development, automatically scanning entire fields on a plant-by-plant basis, and then reporting real-time agronomic data such as nitrogen content, water stress, plant height potential and other ideal information for plant breeders.

Additionally, Blue River is hoping to use robotics to one day make a dent in the resistant weed epidemic, although he also characterizes that technology as “very early stage”.

“We’re hoping to develop a weed application for robotics in the next couple years, where basically the robot will recognize healthy crops from weeds and selectively remove the weeds without spraying the crops,” Heraud says. “Instead of having to use selective herbicides and herbicide-tolerant crops, and spraying chemicals on those crops, you only paint the problematic weeds.”

Having recently received a healthy dose of venture capital funding (to the tune of $10 million), Heraud and Blue River seem poised to help lead the robotic revolution in agriculture.

“There is tremendous opportunity right now, to be the first to get this technology right,” he says. “It’s going to have to operate fast and efficiently, and it’s going to have to be competitive to traditional commercial application in terms of cost and speed.”

Leave a Reply

One comment on “Blue River: Making Ag Robots A Reality

Robotics/Labor Savers Stories
Robotics/Labor SaversWill We Pay Robots by the Hour? [Opinion]
August 28, 2018
I’ve attended a fair number of grower seminars around the country on the potential new technology headed for the farm, Read More
Shake-and-Catch-Harvesting-Platform
Robotics/Labor SaversWhat’s the Future of Orchard Robotics in Pennsylvania?
August 28, 2018
During the past several decades, agriculture, in general, has made advancements as a result of automation and precision management technologies. However, Read More
Driscolls-Strawberries-Greenhouse
Robotics/Labor SaversHow Technology Will Influence Farms of the Future, Change Way Crops are Produced
August 24, 2018
From the invention of hoes, scythes and ploughs to the introduction of tractors, innovation is at the heart of agriculture, Read More
AmericasSciFi in Ag: Rolls Royce Tech On Your Planter? Robotic Bugs for Maintenance?
July 31, 2018
Article Notes: This monthly column takes some crazy sounding ideas and applies them to the field of Ag Tech. The Read More
Trending Articles
Soil-Hand
Data ManagementAre You Using Your Soil to Its Full Potential?
September 14, 2018
Harvest is progressing across most parts of the U.S. and those growers who aren’t already harvesting are gearing up to Read More
Grower-Retailer
Imagery/SensingAgtech: 10 Things I Hate About You!
September 4, 2018
Before you get bent out of shape from the title, remember if you’ve read my articles before you know I Read More
Kansas State University
Industry NewsKansas State University, Topcon Form Precision Ag Research Partnership
August 30, 2018
Kansas State University and Topcon Agriculture are collaborating to develop tools and systems to advance precision agriculture and support farmers. Read More
Blockchain building block graphic
Specialty CropsIs Blockchain the Future of Food Safety?
August 24, 2018
When the Internet Protocol Suite (TCP/IP) was standardized in 1982, permitting the worldwide proliferation of interconnected networks and eventually the Read More
WinField’s Joel Wipperfurth On Empowering Data-Driven Decisions
InfoAg ConferenceOne on One with Joel Wipperfurth, Winfield United
August 15, 2018
Winfield United's Joel Wipperfurth discusses ag technology trends and topics during last month’s InfoAg Conference. Read More
Geosys
Industry NewsUrtheCast to Acquire Geosys from Land O’Lakes in $20 Million Deal
August 15, 2018
UrtheCast Corp. and Land O’Lakes, Inc. today announced they have entered a binding term sheet for the purchase of Geosys Read More
Latest News
Business ManagementIvy Tech, Farmers Partner to Help Precision Ag Educatio…
September 20, 2018
Harvest time has taken on a new meaning for some Wabash Valley farmers, and Bobbi Hunt-Kincaid hopes her family’s first Read More
Sensors
Sensors/IoTThe Answer to Agriculture’s Daunting Challenges – Soil …
September 20, 2018
According to the United Nations, 9.6 billion people will live on planet Earth by 2050. Feeding these mouths will require Read More
Google-Earth-Map-featured-image
Data ManagementRainfall Revisited: Accurate Observations and Beyond
September 18, 2018
As a provider of weather analysis and forecast services to the agricultural industry, one of the most common questions I Read More
PenelopeNagel
Business ManagementWhy Is Funding a Challenge for Women-Led Agtech Compani…
September 17, 2018
When it comes to women-led agtech companies the funding discussion never seems to cease. In June after the The New Read More
Mobile Phone in field
Decision Support SoftwareWhy Are 570 Million Farmers Not Yet Using Agricultural …
September 17, 2018
Until recently, using agricultural apps and software was a rare practice among growers. This is now changing. The mass adoption Read More
Soil-Hand
Data ManagementAre You Using Your Soil to Its Full Potential?
September 14, 2018
Harvest is progressing across most parts of the U.S. and those growers who aren’t already harvesting are gearing up to Read More
Grower Services & SolutionsDeere-Granular Collaboration Produces New Profit Maps T…
September 14, 2018
The newest development from the ongoing John Deere-Granular product development and marketing collaboration is Profit Maps, now available to farmers Read More
Wingtra
DronesOpinion: Combining Two Pluses with the WingtraOne UAV
September 13, 2018
For the every-day consumer interested in UAVs, there is an ocean of products from which to choose. This includes the Read More
Farmer-tablet
AsiaShould Agri-Input Manufacturers Outsource E-Commerce to…
September 12, 2018
Editor’s note: Venky Ramachandran is a contributing writer for PrecisionAg.com’s sister site, AgriBusinessGlobal.com. This article was originally published on LinkedIn. Now, Read More
ICON-Link-Licensing_featured-image
Industry NewsValley Irrigation Adds Remote Irrigation Management Opt…
September 11, 2018
Valley Irrigation, an industry leader in smart irrigation solutions, has announced enhancements to its remote management technologies. Multi-Year Licensing In Read More
Reflex-Connect-Agri-Inject-featured-image
Variable Rate ApplicationVariable Rate Fertigation System Expands with Mobile Co…
September 10, 2018
Building on the success of its Reflex Variable Rate Fertigation system, Agri-Inject has taken fluid injection to the next level Read More
Industry NewsTeralytic Earns Ag Data Transparent Certification
September 10, 2018
Soil analytics company Teralytic has completed the Ag Data Transparent certification, affirming that their data use is private, secure, and Read More
Business ManagementTop 20 Two-Year Colleges for Precision Agriculture
September 10, 2018
Earlier this year, I compiled a list of the 25 best colleges for precision agriculture. It was quite the process. Read More
Industry NewsRaven, Topcon Announce Slingshot API Agreement
September 6, 2018
Raven Industries and Topcon Agriculture announced today a licensing agreement for Topcon Agriculture’s use of the Slingshot Application Programming Interface Read More
Tablet Grower
Data ManagementThe Power of Predictive Analytics in Agriculture
September 5, 2018
Years ago if we would have been told computers, data, and technology would be scattered around every farm there may Read More
DronessenseFly Launches eBee X Drone, Breaks Through 1,000 ac…
September 5, 2018
senseFly today reportedly sets a new standard in mapping tools with the launch of the eBee X. Launched with the Read More
AmericasOn The Scene: 2018 Farm Progress Show Wrap Up
September 5, 2018
Former Monsanto President (now Bayer CropScience Chief Operating Office) Brett Begemann’s opening salvo during his first appearance at a Farm Read More
EventsAg Experts Discuss Big Data Challenges in Agriculture
September 5, 2018
Agricultural experts at a Houston conference praised the advancements in unmanned aerial vehicles, sensors, and data-collecting technology used in precision Read More