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US (CA): Lettuce-weeding robots, coming soon to a farm near you

Blue River Technology isn't a typical Silicon Valley startup. The Sunnyvale, California-based company makes farming machines. "I bet we're the only startup with a tractor behind our offices," CEO Jorge Heraud says. Nevertheless, it is still very much a tech startup.

Blue River's machines are robots that help farmers manage their fields more efficiently. The old-school approach is to drench an entire field in weed-killing chemicals, but Blue River combines computer vision and sophisticated machine learning algorithms to spray selectively.

The machines are hooked up to tractors and are used to scan entire fields, only spraying the appropriate targets. As a result, farmers save money, with the side benefit of reducing the amount of herbicide that leaks into the environment. One of its models is called LettuceBot, and it can reduce herbicide use by a factor of 10.

Heraud has a grand vision for Blue River Technology, which raised a $17 million Series B in December 2015, primarily from agriculture-focused investors. He wants to build a global company that helps farmers everywhere manage their fields on a plant-by-plant level, mainstreaming artificial intelligence as an integral part of agriculture. A.I. is an area of much interest and investment in the tech industry, Heraud says, but it doesn't always have a mission behind it.

"A lot of the opportunities out there are for people to use artificial intelligence to market, to do app placement or spam filters--to do things that are not quite as meaningful" as improving how food is produced, he says. "The biggest mega-problem facing agriculture is how do we clean up our act, maintain scalability so that we can feed everybody--and even those who are to come--but do it in a sustainable way."

Read more at Inc.com

Publication date: 6/19/2017

 


 

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