13 innovators to accelerate harvest automation

31-05-2021 | |
Photo: WGCIT
Photo: WGCIT

Western Growers, the representative of farmers growing fresh produce in Arizona, California, Colorado and New Mexico. has selected 13 innovators for the inaugural cohort of its Global Harvest Automation Initiative (GHAI). This project aims to automate 50 percent of specialty crop harvest within 10 years by accelerating the commercialisation of harvest automation innovations.

The U.S. companies chosen for the cohort all specialise in agricultural robotics, mechanisation and automation and will receive exclusive resources to help them launch and scale. This includes Mentoring (mentor support from leading ag and tech companies, including feedback on product offerings, strategy and go-to-market options); Field Trials (facilitation of field trials with growers); and Case Studies (success of field trials will be published as case studies which will be available to growers).

Get robots into fields and markets faster

According to Western Growers, the cohort will receive systems integration to integrate industry-standard components (called technology stack) into their product roadmap so their robots can get into fields and markets faster.

“Most harvest startups build the entire technology stack themselves – from imaging and artificial intelligence to robotic end-effectors and automated movement up and down the fields. Western Growers’ Global Harvest Automation Initiative will now build this technology stack for them,” said Walt Duflock, vice president of innovation at Western Growers. “The innovators in this cohort are both startups and established companies that will get help integrating with industry-standard tractors, robot arms and sensors, which can commoditize up to 60–80% of the startup’s technology stack.”

The following are the innovation companies selected to receive hands-on support for all aspects of their businesses for rapid scaling:

  • Advanced Farm Technologies: provides advanced farming tools, such as automated strawberry harvesting robots, for harvesting services
  • Antobot: builds a team of small intelligent agriculture robots with advanced computer vision and robotics technology
  • Augean Robotics: helps solve the labor problem facing farmers by making autonomous collaborative robots
  • Earth Rover: makes field robots that automate scouting, harvesting and weeding, and provides farmers with per-plant data from seed to gate
  • FarmWise: designs driverless tractors that use machine learning and computer vision, rather than herbicides, to eradicate weeds from farmers’ fields
  • FFRobotics: develops a reliable, robust harvesting platform emulating human-hand picking process for efficient, cost-effective and bruise-free fruit harvesting
  • Muddy Machines: builds a new generation of field robots that help growers manage labor-intensive crops by conducting fieldwork
  • Oxbo International Corporation: designs, manufactures and distributes innovative harvesting equipment and related products
  • Ramsay Highlander: original equipment manufacturer and custom manufacturer of design-built harvesting aids, mechanical harvesting machines and specialized harvesting machines for the vegetable growing industry
  • Ripe Robotics: builds and manages fruit-picking robots
  • Robotics Plus: enables sustainable growth of the horticultural and fiber industries through robotics and automation
  • SPUDNIK Equipment Company LLC: manufactures potato harvesting and handling equipment
  • Strio AI: automates labor-intensive tasks for specialty growers, starting with runner cutting for strawberries

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One of the innovators is FarmWise. The company develops autonomous weeding robots. - Photo: FarmWise

One of the innovators is FarmWise. The company develops autonomous weeding robots. – Photo: FarmWise

Selected based on market traction and potential

According to Western Growers, each innovator was selected based on market traction and potential for successful scale as well as feedback from Western Grower members and industry groups, including the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission.

GHAI Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), a group with expertise in precision ag, robotics, artificial intelligence, equipment manufacturing, harvest automation and grower/shipper operations, will work with the cohort on priorities that can accelerate their development efforts.

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Hugo Claver Web editor for Future Farming