Gerrish Farms and airBridge LLC of Rockville, Indiana hosted the third annual agBOT Challenge last weekend. Teams demonstrated machines capable of autonomously moving through the field, identifying plant health, eradicating weeds, harvesting watermelons, and gathering layers of data. Indiana was well represented in the competition with teams from Purdue, IUPUI, and Indiana State. Competitors came from as far away as Nova Scotia to compete for $100,000 in prize money.
Steve Gerrish is the CEO of airBridge, owner of Gerrish Farms, and the founder of the agBOT Challenge. He says this all started three years ago to promote the idea that real broadband is a necessity.
“So, we installed very high-speed internet over here, and our intent was to demonstrate what we could perform on the farm if we had that. Which was autonomous driving, management of drones, doing field diagnostics, planting and harvesting, with robots.”
Thomas Trappenberg is a computer science professor from Canada. I asked him what intrigued him about this competition that brought him all the way from Nova Scotia to Rockville, Indiana with his weeding robot.
“Here, there’s this perfect competition. We are just starting, but we need to practice. And also, to see what other people are up to.”
The Climate Corporation is a platinum sponsor of the event. Craig Rupp, Climate’s senior director of advanced technologies and one of the key engineers who developed the Climate FieldView Drive data capture device, served as a judge for the third consecutive year.
“Climate supports innovation in agriculture. We are data analytics company and we want more data. These robots, eventually, they’re going to be streaming tons of data into the cloud, and we want to work with them and help analyze your data.”
Indiana State Department of Agriculture Director Bruce Kettler spoke with Hoosier Ag Today at the event saying events like the agBOT Challenge will help Hoosier farmers embrace the technological advances being made.
“People in the industry of agriculture, farmers and people in ag business, have always been very willing to change when they find value in that change. I think this type of competition will hopefully help people understand that this is what we have to do to embrace the future.”
1st place in the Weed and Feed competition, winning $30,000, was Trappenberg’s Nexus Robotics from Nova Scotia. IUPUI and Purdue tied for 2nd place, and they each received $10,000.
Virginia Tech took home $30,000 for winning the Watermelon Harvest competition. PeeDee Precision from South Carolina won $10,000 for 2nd place. Muchowski Farms, from Saskatchewan, and CalPoly tied for 3rd place and won $5,000 each.