Back in 2016, we wrote about the Agerris SwagBot farming robot and its abilities in crop inspection, weed removal and yield counting. Now, having raised US$4.6 million for commercialization, the company is looking to get an AI version of the robot onto the market within a year.
Where the 2016 version was remote-controlled, the SwagBot can now work as an autonomous unit, with the capability to identify and eradicate weeds, while monitoring pastures and crops. It'll soon have the ability to autonomously herd cattle built in as well, so Spot the farm dog might find himself out of a job unless he can learn to monitor and wirelessly report on the herd.
Where SwagBot is designed to focus on large-scale crop and livestock operations, Agerris is also working on a second product called Digital Farmhand for smaller farms.
Digital Farmhand will automate tasks like non-chemical weed removal, intelligent crop spraying and yield estimation. It'll work best for row and tree croppers, and Agerris is hoping it'll be price-competitive enough to be useful in developing countries.
The company is targeting a commercial release within 12 months, starting in its home country of Australia but expanding globally after that. There's still some testing and development work to be done, however.
Whatever the commercial fate of the SwagBot and Digital Farmhand, the agricultural robotics market seems set to explode in the next decade or so, with robust, autonomous mobile platforms developing alongside deep learning and artificial intelligence to a point where their utility and affordability will be very compelling.
See a demonstration of SwagBot in the video below.
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