Robots Take to the Fields In Indiana
Driverless machines took to the fields at Gerrish Farms this past weekend during the agBOT Challenge. This century farm, located in Rockville, Indiana, hosted more than a dozen teams at this year’s competition. Seven of those teams developed robots that could plant corn; nine teams created machines that could identify weeds and eradicate them and fertilize crops.
In its second year, the competition saw a wide range of innovations – from machines built from the ground up to others that incorporated existing technologies – to create autonomous vehicles. It also saw a wide range of competitors that included farmers, universities, companies specializing in robotics, as well as budding engineers.
In the planting competition, Indiana farmer Kyler Laird, Lairdscapes, showcased the machine he used on his farm this past season to plant more than 500 acres of corn.
“I’m a one-man operation and need technology like this if I am going to continue farming,” he says.
Laird worked with Mark Waibel at Solid Rock Ag Solutions, Remington, Indiana, to retrofit an eight-row planter and tractor to be robotic. This included equipping the planter with some of the latest technology from Precision Planting. Taking first place and a cash award of $25,000, Laird says his goal is to one day – in the not-so-distant future – see a swarm of small robots tackling chores in his fields.
While competitors in the Weed and Feed competition included well-known names, a clear standout was Team Gizmoze, which included father-and-son team Rhett and Sage Schildroth.
Only 12 years old, Sage developed his bot, as he likes to call it, from the ground up. From welding to software development, this budding engineer had hundreds of hours into his machine. When asked by one judge how much his dad helped out on the project, the young man’s response was “I built the bot.”
Team Gizmoze took third place and walked away with $10,000 in prize money.
Prairie Robotics, a Canadian team who competed in last year’s planting competition and placed first, took first place again this year in the Weed and Feed competition along with $25,000 in prize money. Second place went to Purdue University, which included a cash award of $10,000.
Other teams competing included NorthStar Robotics, IUPUI (Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis), University of Regina, Muchowski Farms, Colorado Mesa University Team Grit, and PeeDee Precision Ag.
The team of judges included George Kellerman, chief operations officer for Yamaha Motor Ventures; Craig Rupp, director of engineering, The Climate Corporation; Bob Peterson, chief executive officer, Broadband Antenna Tracking Systems; Bill Thompson, progressive Indiana farmer; Kip Tom, CEO and owner, Tom Farms; and Lee Reddin, CTO of Blue River Technology.
Another highlight of the competition was the collaboration between teams. Although they were competitors, it wasn’t unusual to see a team step up and help another team having issues with their innovation.
For more information on the agBOT Challenge, visit agbot.ag.