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It’s amazing how one of humans’ earliest activities is also currently at the forefront of innovation and technology. And while our basic need for nutrition and sustenance hasn’t changed much since the dawn of time, the way we gather, grow and process it through ag & food technology continues to evolve. We’ve come a long way from the simple plow and are on the edge of autonomous robot harvesting. Here are a few Ag Robotic startups developing emerging technologies that offer a glimpse into the near future:


Robotic Mummy Removal

No, not the ancient Egyptian kind!

There are no pyramids built for these unfortunate nuisances. Mummies, or mummified fruits, are dried and shriveled fruit comprised of both fungal spores and plant tissue and are often left on the tree after harvest [1]. If left unchecked, they can breed disease and increase the chances of infections and pests, ultimately leading to unhealthy trees. Removing them is done manually and is not an easy task. Current methods use machines to vigorously shake the trees, damaging branches and more. Until now that is, thanks to a startup robotics firm called InsightTRAC.

The InsightTRAC team has developed an autonomous rover for the almond growing industry that removes mummies by optically identifying them and shooting them with biodegradable pellets. The unit can work day or night in a variety of conditions, and uses a combination of technologies (GPS, AI) to operate. The company is on track to start deliveries in Dec 2022 in the US and June 2023 in Australia.

Carbon Robotics

Weeding – with LASERS!

As long as farmers have been growing crops, they’ve been dealing with weeds. Carbon Robotics, a Seattle-based startup, has found a new way to eliminate them autonomously: shoot them with lasers! Their self-driving platform automatically identifies weeds and uses lasers to eradicated them using thermal energy.

The company claims many benefits to traditional methods such as herbicides and mechanical weeding. These include increased crop yield, higher quality product, overall cost reduction, regenerative farming practices, and an economical path to organic farming [2].


Autonomous Fruit Picker

NANOVEL, A Fresno, CA startup has just revealed a “revolutionary tree fruit harvester.” The company has recently completed and tested a prototype and has plans to launch its beta version in 2023 for the citrus market. [3] As with all agriculture, labor shortages have prompted leaders in the industry to pursue solutions, and many have turned to automation.

Depiction of algorithm from NANOVEL’s website

The machine uses AI algorithms to predict fruit placement, and can pick oranges at a rate of ~ 0.7 – 1.0 sec picks per second. The company claims benefits will include uses for a variety of fruit types, allowing for a reliable harvest schedule, valuable insights through data collection and analysis, and a system that is cost-competitive to traditional manual picking. NANOVEL expects units to be commercially available by 2024.

Gastrograph AI

Digitally Measuring Flavor

Can’t decide what to eat? Of course there’s an app for that. But Gastrograph AI is setting out to digitize flavors and reliably measure them. By quantifying flavor profiles, aromas, and textures, food manufacturers can optimize their existing product line, increase the speed and success rate of their product development, and reliably break into new markets.

While the company claims they envision a future where individual choice will be championed, leading to niche markets and a win for everyone, this author can also see the obvious goal: to help manufacturers push more product. I guess it will be able to answer that eternal question: what’s for dinner?

Here at Innotech, our designs are at the forefront of technology, and we love to see innovations such as these journey from concept to reality. The future is automation. Are you ready to position your operation for success? Get in touch with our team for insights into improvements for your processes.

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