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College students to build apple-picking robots in ASABE competition

For the 2018 ASABE Student Robotics Challenge, teams will simulate the mechanical harvest and storage of apples.

Nineteen teams of college students from top universities in the U.S., Canada and China will compete to build robots to mechanize farm work at the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers Annual International Meeting in Detroit.

The 2018 ASABE Student Robotics Challenge, being organized by Alireza Pourreza, University of California Cooperative Extension agricultural mechanization specialist, will be held on July 31.

“The labor availability for agriculture is decreasing while the need for more food is increasing to feed the growing world population,” said Pourreza, who is based in the UC Davis Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering. “So agriculture should switch to technologies that are less labor-dependent, such as using more robots, to overcome this challenge.”

Ali Pourreza, shown flying a drone to collect crop data, is organizing the 2018 ASABE Student Robotics Challenge.

The ASABE Student Robotics Challenge provides an opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students to demonstrate their knowledge and skills of robotics in agriculture.

“The goal of this event is to encourage young agricultural engineers to get involved in building robots for agricultural applications and to get experienced as the next generation of farmers,” Pourreza said.

The challenge will be to simulate the harvest and storage of apples, a crop commercially grown in several states. The students will design and operate robots that will autonomously harvest “apples” on field that measures 8 feet by 8 feet. The robots will harvest eight mature apples (red ping-pong balls), remove and dispose of eight diseased or rotten apples (blue ping-pong balls) and leave eight immature apples (green ping-pong balls) on the tree.

This year, the competitors are being divided into a beginner division and an advanced division.

Beginner Teams

California Polytechnic State University        Green and Gold Mustangs
China Agricultural College                          China Ag, Beginners
McGill University                                       We Are Groots
Purdue                                                     ABE Robotics
Purdue                                                     Harvestiers
Texas A&M                                               Texas A&M
University of California Merced                   Bobcats
University of Nebraska Lincoln                    HuskerBots 2
University of Nebraska Lincoln                    HuskerBots3
University of Wisconsin River Falls               Falcon Robotics
Zhejiang University                                    ZJU team 1
Zhejiang University                                    ZJU team 2
Clemson University                                    CARA

Advanced Teams

China Agricultural College                             Dream
McGill University                                          Agrobots
University of Georgia                                    UGA Engineers
University of California – Davis                      Ag-Botics
University of Florida                                      RoboGators
University of Nebraska Lincoln                       HuskerBots 1

The competition will be held in Cobo Center Exhibit Hall, 1 Washington Blvd., Detroit, Michigan. There will be three rounds throughout the day and each team will participate once in each round.

The 2017 robotics challenge was to simulate raspberry cane thinning, removing green canes and pruning the yellow canes.

For more information, visit the 2018 ASABE robotics competition website: https://www.asabe.org/Awards-Competitions/Student-Awards-Competitions-Scholarships/Robotics-Student-Design-Competition.

Video of 2016 competition: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U1ymUiCr3Mc

Video of 2017 competition: https://vimeo.com/250379863

 

Posted on Wednesday, July 11, 2018 at 2:12 PM
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture Innovation

Upcoming UAV Field Day in Merced County

2018 Merced County UAV Flier

UC Cooperative Extension in Merced County and Bowles Farming are hosting the 2nd Annual Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), “Drone”, Field Day on Tuesday, June 26, 2018. The event will run from 8:30-11:30 am and will be held at Bowles Farming headquarters in Los Banos (11069 Hereford Road)....

Posted on Wednesday, June 6, 2018 at 3:03 PM
Tags: ag engineering (1), drone (1), Pest Management (1), technology (11), UAV (1)

GivingGarden wins top prize in Apps for Ag hackathon

From left, GivingGarden team members GivingGarden team members are Scott Kirkland, Josh Livni, Deema Tamimi and John Knoll.

A gardening and produce-sharing app took top prize in the Apps for Ag hackathon, after contestants pitched judges at the California State Fair in Sacramento on Sunday (July 17). The first place team, GivingGarden, took home $7,500 in prize money, custom rodeo belt buckles and a six-month, top-tier membership to the AgStart Incubator in Woodland.

From left, Sense and Protect's Anthony Johnson, with Rina DiMare of the California State Fair, Dhrubajyoti Das, Peter Swanson and Alex Avalos with ANR CIO Gabriel Youtsey.
The hyper-local, produce-sharing app provides gardening advice from the UC Master Gardener Program and enables backyard gardeners to connect with others who want to share their produce. The GivingGarden team members are Scott Kirkland, Josh Livni, Deema Tamimi and John Knoll.

Second place was awarded to Sense and Protect, a mobile task-management app that connects to climate sensors to protect farmworkers' health and enhance their productivity. Sense and Protect team members Dhrubajyoti Das, Alex Avalos, Anthony Johnson and Peter Swanson share $4,500.

Third place went to ACP STAR System, a geo and temporal database and platform for tracking Asian citrus psyllid and other invasive pests. Team members Mark Takata and Chinh Lam share $2,500.

The top three teams will also receive complimentary startup incorporation services valued at $2,200 from Royse Law.

ACP STAR System team members Mark Takata and Chinh Lam, DiMare and Youtsey.
Compostable, which finished in fourth place, is an app and “Internet of Things” (IoT) device that diverts food waste from landfills and turns it into fertilizer and fuel so that it can be used on a farm. Sohail Khan, Nathan Azevedo, Brandon Jack, Regan King and Raheela Khan make up the Compostable team.

All of the participating teams had about 48 hours to develop their apps. Teams that were interested were offered $500 in “cloud credits” to build their solutions and host them on Amazon Web Services' platform. Teams also had access to an IoT kit to incorporate connected devices into their solution.

The top four teams pitched their apps to judges in front of a live audience at the California State Fair.

The Apps for Ag hackathon, which was sponsored by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, the California State Fair and the City of Sacramento, brought together software developers, designers, entrepreneurs, farmers and others who work in agriculture.

Compostable team members Regan King, Brandon Jack, DiMare, Nathan Azevedo, Raheela Khan, Sohail Khan and Youtsey.
“It's really important for UC ANR to be involved in app development because as farmers and natural resource managers face ever-increasing challenges – climate change, invasive pests, the need to conserve water – technology is one of the ways to find solutions,” said Glenda Humiston, University of California vice president for agriculture and natural resources.

“Using technology we can find better ways to reduce pesticide use, increase irrigation efficiency, reduce travel into the fields, manage people better, and deal with the fact that we have a huge labor shortage in this state,” said Humiston, who served as one of the Apps for Ag judges.

The other judges included University of California Chief Information Officer Tom Andriola, USDA Chief Data Officer Bobby Jones, and Better Food Ventures and Mixing Bowl Hub founder Rob Trice.

For more information about Apps for Ag, visit http://www.apps-for-ag.com.

 

Posted on Monday, July 18, 2016 at 3:40 PM

Create apps to solve real agriculture and food problems

UC and State Fair to host 4th Apps for Ag Hackathon July 15-17

Do you have an idea for a mobile app that would simplify a task for growers, ranchers or anyone who works in agriculture? Meet others who can turn your idea into something functional.

The California Apps for Ag, the fourth in a series, will be held July 15-17. The competitive hackathon to solve real problems in agriculture and food is being hosted by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources and the California State Fair.

Software developers, designers, entrepreneurs, farmers, farm consultants and others in the agricultural industry are encouraged to participate in the hackathon, which will be held at the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources building at 2801 Second Street in Davis, from 8 a.m. Friday, July 15 to 11 a.m. Sunday, July 17.

Participants will compete for cash prizes at a “pitchfest” in front of a live audience at the California State Fair on Sunday, July 17, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Prizes will be awarded to the top three apps: first place wins $5,000, second place $3,000 and third place $1,500.

“We would really like to see participants come from all corners of the state,” said Gabe Youtsey, UC ANR's chief information officer, “Let's see what happens when we mix developers from Silicon Valley and Southern California with agricultural experts from the Central Valley, coast and desert regions.”

People who work in agriculture should bring ideas for problems that technology may help solve.

“Apps for Ag Hackathons have already resulted in multiple startups and we want to see this momentum continue to grow,” said Robert Tse, USDA California Rural Development chief strategy officer for agriculture technology and innovation. “There is no better place than the State Fair in the Capitol to showcase the ingenuity of California's ag tech community.”

One startup that has resulted from a previous ag hackathon is Ag for Hire, which connects farm workers who need jobs with farmers who need workers. 

“Apps for Ag is where I met my cofounder, formed the concept and built our first prototype,” said Josh Brown, Ag for Hire founder and CEO. “I would not have been able to find someone so embedded in the agriculture industry on my own.”

“Hackathons are a great way to spur innovation in industry verticals where technology has not been fully adopted,” said Rob Trice, one of the judges and the founder of the Mixing Bowl and Better Food Ventures.

“All roads already point to the State Fair's competitions for other agricultural commodities,” said Jay Carlson, ag programs manager at the State Fair, “This makes the fair a showcase for agricultural innovations as well.”

For more information and to register, visit http://www.apps-for-ag.com.

About Apps for Ag

Apps for Ag is a pro-bono endeavor supported by several AgTech hubs around California, and founded by the AgTech Roundtable, whose members include U.S. Department of Agriculture, California Department of Food and Agriculture, California Department of Technology, California Farm Bureau Federation, California Association of Pest Control Advisers and many other organizations.

UC Agriculture and Natural Resources researchers and educators draw on local expertise to conduct agricultural, environmental, economic, youth development and nutrition research that helps California thrive. Learn more at ucanr.edu.

MEDIA CONTACTS:

Patrick Dosier, Apps for Ag, (714) 504-5424, info@apps-for-ag.com                                   

Gabe Youtsey, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, (530) 750-1314, gdyoutsey@ucanr.edu

 

Posted on Friday, June 3, 2016 at 1:08 PM
Tags: Apps (1), Gabe Youtsey (1), technology (11)

How one farmer’s invention is reducing postharvest losses around the world

In many developing countries, more than half of all fruits and vegetables are never eaten, but instead are lost, damaged or spoiled after harvest. These “postharvest” losses can mean that farmers need to sell their fresh produce as soon as it is harvested for whatever price they can get, before they lose the crops that represent investments of labor, water, and agricultural inputs. Improving how fruits and vegetables are handled after harvest can significantly prolong freshness — and cooling is key.

“The three most important aspects of postharvest handling are: temperature, temperature, temperature,” said Michael Reid, UC Cooperative Extension postharvest specialist who works with the Horticulture Innovation Lab at UC Davis. “In the developing world in particular, affordable cooling technology is mostly absent.”

Cooling can be expensive — even for American farmers 

As a farmer in upstate New York, Ron Khosla knew this problem too well. His vegetable crop was spoiling too quickly, but he could not afford to buy a walk-in cooler for his small farm. So he invented a solution: a small electrical device he called a CoolBot that tricks an air conditioner into getting colder without freezing over, turning a well-insulated room into a cold room at lower costs than refrigeration. 

“I was hoping for a cheap, DIY solution that I could maintain. But mostly I just needed to keep my leafy greens and strawberries cold,” Khosla said. 

The CoolBot tricks an air conditioner into getting even colder, seen here keeping vegetables fresh in Cambodia, as part of a project with the Horticulture Innovation Lab.
One of his farming customers suggested he sell this device to other farmers, so he started a small business called Store It Cold, LLC. 

Khosla's CoolBot invention caught the eye of postharvest researchers, including Reid, who saw it in action on farms in California and decided to try using it in developing countries too.

CoolBot goes global with the Horticulture Innovation Lab

In one of his first projects with the Horticulture Innovation Lab (a program led by UC Davis with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development), Reid partnered with agricultural scientists from Uganda, Honduras and India to test the CoolBot in their climates. The four scientists also tested different local materials as insulation for each of the cold rooms.

Since that first project, the Horticulture Innovation Lab has tested CoolBots for farmer cold storage in Tanzania, Zambia, Uganda, Thailand, Cambodia, Bangladesh, India and Honduras. 

Jane Ambuko of the University of Nairobi is another Horticulture Innovation Lab partner who has worked with the CoolBot. She received a grant to pilot this technology with mango farmers for a program called the Kenya Feed the Future Innovation Engine. Her project was featured on an NTV Food Friday news segment about the CoolBot earlier this month.

“I see the CoolBot making a whole lot of difference,” Ambuko said during a TEDxNairobi speech. “But for it to make that desired difference we have to make it cost-effective and affordable for the smallholder farmers.”

Adapting, troubleshooting and scaling up

In many places, the most expensive part of a CoolBot-equipped cold room is the structure for the insulated room, but both Reid and Khosla expect foam building materials to become more widely available and affordable.

From left, farmers Pak Ry and Brap Yart carry a bin of sponge gourd and banana leaves into a CoolBot-equipped cold room in Cambodia, to keep the produce fresh before sale. (Horticulture Innovation Lab photo)
Reid has contacted Khosla, the farmer-inventor, to troubleshoot challenges and discuss results from new locations. In places without reliable electricity, Reid has tested options for solar power.

In the meantime, Khosla's small business has been growing — selling to not only farmers, but also florists, micro-brewers, and other artisanal food businesses. Now with six employees, the company has sold more than 27,500 CoolBots in 51 countries.

“I'm thrilled and so grateful to be a part of helping lots of people. Working with USAID has gotten us known in other countries, and I'm looking forward to the day when we have enough in-roads in India and Africa where we can work directly with farmers there,” Khosla said. “People didn't believe the CoolBots worked at first. But now we get the most amazing letters from people whose businesses have doubled or quadrupled. Good postharvest care makes such a difference. Once they try it, then they see.”

A previous version of this article appeared in the newsletter for Feed the Future, the U.S. government's global hunger and food security initiative, and also in the Horticulture Innovation Lab blog.


Event - Sustainable solutions and extending California's agricultural expertise to the world: The UC Global Food Initiative and UC Blum Centers will host a Global Food Summit on Sustainable Solutions, May 5-6 at UC Irvine. Elizabeth Mitcham, director of the Horticulture Innovation Lab and UC Cooperative Extension postharvest pomologist at UC Davis, will be speaking about technology transfer for horticulture-related technologies such as the CoolBot, seed drying beads, UC Davis-designed chimney solar dryer, pest-exclusion nets, and other tools the program adapts to the needs of farmers in developing countries. She will also be on a panel with two other UC Davis-based directors of Feed the Future Innovation Labs (UC Davis leads five Feed the Future Innovation Labs with funding from USAID — more than any other university). More info about this event.

Posted on Wednesday, March 30, 2016 at 8:55 AM

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