Advanced technology for better agriculture Image 8
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Advanced technology for better agriculture (Image 8)

March 12, 2014
Field tests using liquid-sensitive paper show the precision of Blue River Technology's robotic spraying capabilities used to thin a crop. The yellow paper on the left is where a "kept" plant would be, and demonstrates that there is no spray residue. On the right, the blue paper in the "thinning" zone is essentially covered with a material to kill unwanted plants. The food gap is becoming one of the world's biggest challenges. According to the United Nations, farmers must grow 70 percent more food by 2050 to feed the world's population. Founded in 2011, Blue River Technology is a small business in Mountain View, Calif., that's helping solve this challenge. The company merges robotics, computer vision and machine learning to change the way food is grown and to lift yields from every acre of farmland. Blue River's first technology, called "LettuceBot 1," is a robot that intelligently and precisely thins lettuce fields. Lee Redden, a National Science Foundation (NSF) principal investigator and a founder of Blue River, is leading a research team that's developing robots that use computer vision to recognize and identify the needs of plants and take appropriate action in real-time, even in rugged agricultural conditions. For example, the robots can determine whether a crop needs thinning, then spray a liquid with precision to kill excess plants and thin the field. Funding from NSF's Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program (grant IIP 11-43463) played a key role in building a team and these machines. Blue River is now operating its precise field robotics as a commercial service and is beginning to develop new concepts that serve its vision: Advanced technology for better agriculture. (Date of Image: 2013) Credit: ©Blue River Technology

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