To feed the world’s growing population, farmers are looking for new ways to automate agricultural processes—and where robotics meets a desire to feed the world, you’re sure to find MIT people at work. Several such efforts involving MIT alumni were recently highlighted by the Robot Report and Gizmodo.
Moving and spacing plants are among the most critical tasks at greenhouses, but they are also taxing on humans and often lead to injury. Founded by Joseph Jones ’75, Harvest Automation manufactures robots that complete this function more efficiently and free up human employees to handle other tasks.
Agribotix leases agricultural drones to co-ops, farm managers, and industrial farm corporations. Its advanced imaging and mapping services help farmers identify weed-resistant patches in fields; prescription maps enable farmers to know exactly what places need more—or less—fertilizer. The company was cofounded by Tom McKinnon PhD ’89.
Energrid is developing robotic harvesting and processing solutions for citrus farmers. Initial tests of a multi-arm harvester are underway, and the company aims to offer its product in 2016. David Askey ’86, SM ’89 serves as Energrid’s chief business development officer.
Founder Brett Wallach ’81 traces his love of robotics back to his undergraduate days at MIT. Among the company’s agricultural offerings is a lettuce thinner that performs selective weeding and spraying, increasing crop yield. Vision Robotics is currently testing a grapevine pruning system and hopes to start selling the system in 2016.
PrecisionHawk provides data to crop researchers, farmers, and ranchers, enabling them to make informed farm management decisions. The company’s vice president of product development is Philip Ferguson SM ’03, PhD ’06.
Jaybridge is currently testing its autonomous row crop harvesters at farms in Iowa. The company has been working for the past few years to develop the world’s first large-scale, truly autonomous row-crop harvesting solution. Before joining Jaybridge, CEO Jeremy Brown ’94, MNG ’95, PhD ’02 developed autonomous underwater vehicles at Bluefin Robotics.