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Alphabet is testing photo voltaic powered robotic buggies to examine farm crops

The "buggies" developed by Mineral use solar energy and a number of other technologies.


Tech giant Alphabet's so-called "Moonshot Factory" – also known as X – has shared details of a project aimed at transforming agriculture and food production using technologies like robotics, software and satellite imagery.

The initiative has been in development for a while, but this week X revealed its name Mineral and more details on how it works. His broad focus is on what is known as "computer agriculture".

In a blog post on Monday, Project Leader Elliot Grant described the term as "farmers, breeders, agronomists and scientists" who rely on new types of hardware, software and sensors to collect and analyze information about the complexities of the plant world. "

A key part of the plan is the use of low-emission electric buggies on farmland. These vehicles, which use solar panels, can use GPS software to drive over fields and pinpoint the exact location of plants. Cameras and "machine awareness tools" are then used to collect vast amounts of data on the plants.

This data – including plant height, fruit size, and leaf area – is combined with other information such as weather and soil health. According to Mineral, its software tools can "help growers understand and predict how different types of plants will react to their environment."

"By mapping and depicting crops in the field, growers can fix and treat individual crops instead of entire fields, reducing both their costs and the environmental impact," she said.

By tracking plant growth over time, growers should also be able to make predictions about the size and yield of the plants.

"Just as the microscope has changed the way we detect and treat diseases, we hope that through better tools, agriculture can change the way food is grown," Grant said.

Mineral is currently working with breeders and breeders in South Africa, Argentina, Canada and the US and said it will continue to expand working with organizations worldwide.

Robots and Agriculture

From the invention of tools like the scythe to the development of industrial machines including tractors and combine harvesters, innovation has been at the heart of agriculture for millennia.

In recent years, researchers and companies have driven the development of high-tech harvesting solutions.

At the end of March 2019, for example, the fruit grower T & G Global announced that a robot harvester would be used for a commercial apple harvest in New Zealand. The automated apple picking robot was developed by Abundant Robotics, a California-based technology company.

Last year, Cambridge University engineers developed a robot that uses machine learning to pick lettuce.

Called "Vegebot," it was designed to first identify iceberg lettuce and then decide if it's healthy and ready to be picked, the university said at the time. The robot could then cut the lettuce without damaging it.

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