Robots, computers, and agriculture have all come together at Purdue to produce a glimpse of what farming may be like in the not too distant future. For the past few years, the agBOT Challenge has been held on a farm in Parke County, but this year it has moved to the Purdue West Lafayette campus to combine robotics with digital farming. The agBOT Challenge, part of Purdue’s 150th celebration Ideas Festival, poses the question: What if all of rural America could take advantage of high-speed broadband? “We’re delighted to bring the 2019 agBOT Challenge to Purdue,” said Karen Plaut, Dean of Agriculture at Purdue. “This event will bring students, researchers and entrepreneurs together and will showcase innovative ideas and technologies that can provide solutions for the future.”
Ron Turco, Purdue Agronomy Department head, told HAT one example will be robots scouting fields looking for nematodes, “The robot will scout your field and tell you where you are likely to have a nematode infestation. This will allow you to make adjustments to minimize that impact.”
Turco said the next level is to have these robots use artificial intelligence to make decisions and recommendations about what they see, “That is the real exciting part — when they can analyze the data and make recommendations to a farmer in real time.” Turco sees this as the next step in digital ag but admits the lack of rural broadband is the biggest barrier to making this happen, “To drive this, you need a real strong broadband capability. One of our goals is to demonstrate how a strong on-farm broadband capability can be used to advance this technology and many other things.” Indiana state officials will be on hand to observe the demonstrations.
The event will be held at the Agronomy Center for Research and Education (ACRE), 4540 US 52, West Lafayette, IN. On May 16, ACRE will open its grounds to the public, inviting youth, educators, alumni, and agtech supporters to NextGen Expo. This event will create a unique interactive STEM fair that explores the interface of digital technologies and agriculture.
“The agBOT Challenge was designed as a symbolic event to provide a vision of what could be possible if we had high tech and high-speed internet on the farm,” said Steve Gerrish, who developed the annual event on his farm in Parke County. “Competitions are a great way to drive innovation and create a cross-collaborative effort in the agtech space.” Several participants in previous agBot challenges have gone on to commercialize their competition entries or are in the process of doing so. In addition to highlighting the need for high-speed internet, Rachel Gerrish said another motivation of the challenge is to advance digital agriculture technologies.
Event attendance is free with pre-registration at: https://ag.purdue.edu/agBOT/.