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GuardBot Aquiline Drones
IT’S A BIRD, IT’S A PLANE, IT’S … Believe it or not, it’s a drone. Designed mostly for military and safety applications, this drone can move over the ground and even in the water.

Keep your eye on 'rolling drones'

Tomorrow's Tech Today: They haven't found a use for all these products in agriculture yet — but give them time.

Here’s news too intriguing not to share. It doesn’t fit the Hi-Tech Farming column because land-and-water-based drones aren’t used in farming yet. But these spherical and amphibious robotic vehicles, officially known as GuardBots, hold potential for military, firefighting and rescue operations where it would be hazardous for humans to do tasks or gather information.

Here’s the far-out part. Peter Muhlrad, president of GuardBot, says these robots were initially conceived for a planetary mission to Mars. They can move across all terrains, including dirt, gravel and paved roads, dunes, snowy fields, and even water surfaces.

The drones range from 6.5 inches to 7 feet in diameter, and can move forward, backward and make 360-degree turns. One charge lasts up to 25 hours. They can carry cameras, microphones and GPS. The first batch is slated to be built soon in Hartford, Conn.

What’s more amazing is that by working with Aquiline Drones, aerial drones will deploy and communicate with GuardBots. Both companies envision seamlessly managing environmental spills or detecting hazardous chemicals by allowing the air and land components to communicate through the cloud. If you’re ready for the future, check out aquilinedrones.com and guardbot.org.

Vertical farming

If you haven’t heard about growing lettuce in your kitchen, visit gropod.ioThen check this out. Kalera, which describes itself as a technology-driven, vertical farming company, recently opened a new state-of-the-art growing facility in Orlando, Fla., which will be the highest production volume farm in the Southeastern U.S. Built in less than six months, it can produce millions of heads of leafy greens per year. It’s an indoor growing facility retrofitted into an existing building.

Kalera’s Christian Toma says the company has plans to expand rapidly, redefining what “pick-to-plate” means for the future. “We’re trying to perfect Mother Nature indoors by combining science and technology with farming,” he says. Check it out at kalera.com.

Manage your fleet

Still in the future vein but a bit closer to farming as you know it, here’s news from Raven Industries Inc. Raven is partnering with Razor Tracking to provide ag retailers and large farming operations with better ways to track and manage large fleets of equipment.

Razor Tracking is a mobile application-based fleet tracking and management system. Raven brings the power of its Slingshot platform. Together, the partnership is launching Slingshot Fleet Tracking. It allows a manager to seamlessly and wirelessly connect the office to the field. You get accurate location and running data in real time. Learn more at ravenslingshot.com.

High-tech conservation

The Conservation Technology Information Center in West Lafayette, Ind., in partnership with the Ecosystem Services Market Consortium and Heidelberg University, Tiffin, Ohio, received a grant of more than $472,000 over three years from EPA to reduce phosphorus runoff in the Maumee and Sandusky basin watersheds in Ohio.

What’s fascinating is the technology they will use. Computer models will track tillage and cover crop use based on satellite imagery, while the field-level Nutrient Tracking Tool and models and monitoring data from Heidelberg and CTIC will create baselines for water quality trading programs. Farmers will be involved, because improvements will only happen if farmers make changes. Officials envision water quality trading for P credits based on a pay-for-performance model.    

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