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Autonomous Machines Power the Future at F2F Start-Up Competition

AGR Burro, Rogo SmartCore Win Honors at Farmers Business Network's inaugural Start-Up Competition

The future of agriculture is autonomous, if the victors of Farmers Business Network’s Start-Up Competition at the 2018 Farmer2Farmer event are any indication. Autonomous machines operate independently, or without the need for a human operator. And agriculture is ripe for autonomy, according to many of the six finalists for the inaugural competition, held December 13 at FBN’s Farmer2Farmer event in Omaha.

Augean Robotics and ROGO Ag earned the Judge’s Choice and Farmer’s Choice, respectivley.

The AGR Burro

Augean Robotics, or AGR, developed its autonomous “Burro” robot to alleviate labor shortages in some of agriculture’s most labor-intensive environments, such as orchards or vineyards.

Burro can follow workers wirelessly, and follow a pathway that it learns over repeated trips. Burro learns the route autonomously, which will “automate the tedious work,” says Andersen, who grew up on a Pennsylvania farm and put AGR headquarters in Philadelphia.

Burro users can load crop, parts, or other needed items onto the device so it can take vegetables, fruits, or grapes back to a central location. Burro can be used in place of workers pushing wheelbarrows, he says, like a “virtual conveyor belt.”

Andersen notes agriculture is “today’s top frontier for robotics,” and believes devices like Burro can help alleviate labor shortages in these high-value crops.

Burro sells for $11,500 and orders placed today will be delivered in mid-2019.

The Rogo SmartCore

Fertility costs are the third-biggest expense on most row-crop farms. As a result, soil sampling is essential. The problem with most soil sampling procedures, however, is inconsistent soil sampling depth, and accidental mixing or crumbling of soil samples, which can skew test results.

The SmartCore helps solve this problem. It is an autonomous soil sampling device that uses robotics to gather samples with a consistent depth, and with proximity repeatability to ensure accurate sampling year after year. The SmartCore uses a Bobcat tracked skid steer chassis as the base, and a hydraulic-powered auger bit is used to collect samples. The bit is configured so that no soil can escape the core, ensuring each sample is pure and accurate. While the machine is autonomous, an operator helps open up a field and evaluates potential trouble sites, such as ditches or other obstacles. While the SmartCore gathers soil, a Rogo employee can package soil samples for delivery to a soil lab of the farmers’ choice.

Farmers can hire Rogo to gather soil samples on a custom basis, with prices ranging from $4 to $9 per acre, depending upon whether Rogo sends samples to a lab or farmers do it themselves. Rogo expects the SmartCore to collect samples on 300,000 acres in 2019.

Both companies will have the winning products highlighted on FBN Direct for a year. They competed in front of the Farmer2Farmer audience and six judges, and are two of more than 70 companies who entered the competition. 

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