As crowds gathered for the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last week we look at innovative gadgets used to enhance work in the agriculture sector.
Blue River Technology
Based in California, Blue River Technology has created a weed eliminating robot that uses computer vision, cameras and algorithms to detect the difference between crops and weeds, when the robot detects a weed it sprays fertilizer on to it – fertilizer will kill the weed but also help the crops grow at the same time.
The currently named ‘Lettuce Bot’ has 98% accuracy on weed detection.
The Harvest Automation group have created a mini-farmer called ‘Harvey’ (Harvest Vehicle 100) with their flagship product, it performs material handling tasks such as moving plants and shrubs in greenhouses and nurseries.
The robot can do 40% of the manual labor jobs required in a greenhouse, using cameras and sensors to identify plants to pick up.
Nano Ganesh enables farmers to use their mobile phone to remotely turn water pumps on and off. This offers a great way for farmers to save water, money and time.
So far, Nano Ganesh has assisted 10,000 farmers in India and is now being used in Australia and Egypt.
Nano Ganesh’s success is illustrated by Ravindra Bhosale, a progressive farmer from India: “I control the micro irrigation with ease from 6 kms. A person dedicated for the irrigation was wasting his valuable time in unwanted things and has now been deployed for the creative work. I have saved on the fuel cost and gained a wonderful ability to control the pumps at anytime.”
Aqua Spy monitors the amount of water crops gain underground and can send updates to a mobile phone if crops require more or less water. Soil moisture senses track the amount of water reaching the roots every three minutes, it then indicates whether the roots need more or less water helping farmers to eliminate water waste.
Aqua Spy claims it can also increase yield as they ‘give your crops exactly what they need, when they need it.’
Aqua Spy also provides a tracker entitled ‘Ag Spy’ that pins crops on a map and enables farmers to input relevant information that will affect the water a crop needs, such as applying fertilizer. The pin colours change depending on the amount of water the crops need.
8 villages is a global farming platform that connects farmers to peers and business partners on their mobile phones. Farmers can create micro blog posts, share farming techniques, review products and attend training.
A data tool provides market intelligence on consumption behaviours, yields and acreages.
In a similar fashion M Farm provides up-to-date market information to farmers on their mobile phones.
Farmers simply SMS the number 3555 to get information pertaining to the retail price of their products, they can also buy their farm inputs directly from manufacturers at favorable prices and find buyers for their produce.
M Farm is currently being used by smallholder farmers in Kenya, My Farm programmer Isaak Mogetutu demonstrates how the technology has aided families in Kenya: “One group of farmers in Naivasha sold snow peas for as little as 30 Kenyan shillings (3.5 cents) per kilo. We came on the market and linked them to a buyer who pays 90 per kilo. That’s a massive increase in their return.”
Innovative business Sustainable Harvest noticed a problem in their supply chain: without a way to connect people farmers were losing the opportunity to separate their coffee into a range of prices and failing to negotiate higher price premiums with roasters.
To solve this, Sustainable Harvest initiated the ‘Relationship Information Tracking System’ for Producers (RITS Producers) in 2010, training workers in Tanzania to use a computer system to track each stage of the coffee – from the cleaning of the beans to how they were stored – therefore enabling farmers to capitalize on their role in the supply chain.
Spensa Technologies have created a product to control pests on the farm, the Spensa Z-trap is an electronic trap that not only kills insects but also detects what type of pest they are, gathering data about where the pests are on the land and what type of pest they are. This data can then be used to indicate where pesticide should be applied.
They have also created an online app for monitoring pest control entitled My Traps which helps manage trap data and pesticide records. By logging trap data farms can see trends in pests and monitor their pesticide use.
The Pebble Watch
The Pebble Watch is a great example of ‘wearable technology’, it is an E-paper watch which connects to iPhone and Android alerting people about emails, incoming calls and messages. The watch also works with apps that can be downloaded to offer features including weather alerts.
The Pebble Watch will offer a plethora of apps to suit your needs, which is why it could work for farmers in the future. The watch could deliver weather information straight to the farmers wrist, track the ground for the best place to plant seeds or even deliver instant advice on the best fertilizers and equipment to use.