Sometimes new technological innovations come in unusual-looking packages. Take Earthsense’s TerraSentia robot which looks like a cross between a garden tool carrier on wheels and the Star Wars R2D2 character.
While the TerraSentia robot may look a little odd rolling down the middles in a cotton field, it could prove to be helpful for farmers trying to diagnose what ails their cotton crop, according to Scott Fullen, Mid-South Family Farms in Lauderdale County, Tenn.
“What interested me initially in Earthsense was that most of the technologies we’re using today for looking at crops are looking at it from above,” said Fullen, who was one of the speakers for a series of farmer-centered videos created by Emmanuel Amido for the first AgLaunch Virtual Field Day in early October.
“I think that is useful but limited as to what we can do with that,” he said. “I think this is a totally different way of looking at the crop with technology that I think has real possibilities to help us on our farm.”
The robot will enable farmers to detect insects, disease, plant growth characteristics, the amount of fruit on the plant and even fertility deficiencies. It can also help growers gauge the amount of compaction in their soils.
“I think the ability to look under the canopy and get information there will help us with management decisions in cotton, and I think for the foreseeable future it is a tool to make all of it work better in conjunction with our scouts and aerial imagery.”
Fullen said Earthsense has been using the robots in seed plot work for the last three years. “What we were trying to do with AgLaunch and Earthsense coming to our farm was to test it on large farm acres.
“We started with a robot that looked very different than this,” he noted. “It still functioned and worked pretty good. We have learned a lot over the three years. They made changes to it along, and it works pretty good today.”
He said it’s been interesting to work with Earthsense, a company which was founded by a professor at the University of Illinois, and help develop the technology “in a way that we think will be useful to us on the farm.
“Most of the technology we see they’ve already decided how they’re going to do it, and a lot of times I don’t agree with that,” he said. “I think it could have been done better to benefit us more and make me more willing to pay for it.”
For more information on the field day, visit https://aglaunchfieldday.com.