Solinftec has developed a robot to help farmers examine the ecosystem of their fields. (photo courtesy: Solinftec)
West Lafayette-based ag technology company Solinftec will be launching a new robot this growing season to scan and monitor fields, with hopes to commercialize the technology next year. The company is partnering with Illinois-based GROWMARK Inc., one of the largest agricultural cooperatives in North America. The partners will run the robot throughout 2022 and will examine in real-time a field ecosystem, including crop health and challenges.
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Solinftec Chief Operating Officer Daniel Padrão explained no two fields are alike.
“Farms are very different, and the soil is different, everything is different,” which Padrao explained means one crop solution is not always the answer.
“This is the gap that we are trying to close it is and we want to take one step forward to look for that field, not as an average field, but really understand that field as an ecosystem.”
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The company says the goal is to provide farmers and agronomists a new level of information to increase yields, improve inputs usage, lowering environmental impact.
“This cutting-edge technology will help develop agricultural solutions and support sustainable farm practices,” said Padrao. “We are honored to have such a progressive partner as GROWMARK to move forward with this first launch as we continue to work together to support farmers on seizing the opportunities in agriculture.”
The robot, which will be able to scan fields both early and late in the season, is connected to the company’s proprietary ALICE platform. The software uses artificial intelligence and algorithms to examine fields beyond crop health or crop challenges.
“We are looking at the future of farming,” adds Lance Ruppert, GROWMARK’s director of agronomy marketing technology. “We have been working with and utilizing Solinftec’s leading agricultural technologies for over three years and are excited to partner on a project with the potential to change farm practices for the better of the industry and environment.”
The autonomous machine is solar powered and can run non-stop. Padrao says Solinftec’s in-field robotic device is better equipped to scan crops than technology found in un-manned aerial vehicles, or drones.
“There are lots of things happening below the canopy that you can’t get with a drone. The robot allowed us to do it,” said Padrao.
Solinftec will run tests this summer in the U.S. and has also been running tests in Brazil. It plans a commercial launch for the technology next year.