Automation in Specialty Crops Part 2

Automation is Going Beyond Harvest

By Tim Hammerich, with the Ag Information Network

The Burro, is an autonomous robot that transports fruit from where it is picked to where it is packed. But Burro CEO Charlie Andersen sees this innovation going far beyond just helping with harvest. He sees it as a platform to bring automation onto specialty crop farms.

“The challenge with these industries is that each respective crop is relatively small from a market size perspective,” said Anderson.   “For that reason, I think that what you’re going to have is companies that are focused on doing things like yields in blueberries, yields in table grapes, digital entomology in certain spaces. They’re gonna be taking data off of platforms like ours, and then providing that data back to growers in a creative way. And we see our platform being something that enables them to do that,” said Andersen.

Andersen also sees the platform as an economical entry point which may lead to not only data, but potentially crop scouting and spot spraying.

“And so most of the customers that we are working with right now see this logical progression. They recognize that if we get autonomy into our operation, we might get like a 20 to 40% efficiency today, which is quite significant with labor going to 15 or 18 bucks an hour with when it’s fully burdened. But beyond that, you have a vision based platform online that can over time be scaled up to do more things,” Andersen said.

Learn more about Burro on tomorrow’s episode of “The Business of Blueberries” Podcast which can be downloaded any podcast player.

Automation in Specialty Crops Part 1

Automation is Difficult In Specialty Crops

By Tim Hammerich, with the Ag Information Network

Automation in row crop farming is difficult enough, but the problems get even more complex in specialty crops. Charlie Andersen and his team at Burro are helping farmers take the first step to bring robots onto the farm.

“You know, you think, if you’re in the Midwest and you’re a big tractor, you’re high up, there’s nothing above you. You can use high precision GPS to navigate around. If you’re in a blueberry ranch or a table grape vineyard, you’re under the canopy,” Andersen said.  “You can’t see the sky at all. There’s oftentimes no cell phone reception. GPS is going to be super spotty.”

“And so you’ve got to be able to perceive the world with computer vision and recognize where can I drive? Where can’t I drive? Is it a bucket? Is it a person? All those other things. So a lot of the seemingly basic questions around how to drive around in a crop like blueberries or table grapes are actually quite difficult to solve,” noted Andersen.

Burro is a robot that moves by itself transporting fruit from the point of harvest to where it will be ultimately loaded out of the field on a truck

“It’s an autonomous vision-based platform that is people scale. It’s about four horsepower, runs about eight miles on a charge, and can carry about 500 pounds give or take. Fits in either 27 or 28-inch wide spacing or 36-inch wide space, if you’re in table grapes, and it uses a ton of computer vision to navigate around,” said Andersen

Andersen hopes to expand the robot as a platform to perform many other autonomous functions for specialty crop growers.