Seeking to solve the chronic labor shortage problem facing the US premium wine industry, the project ‘ROVR’ (Remote Operated Vineyard Robot) team has developed a fully mobile concept demonstrator at their Pendleton, Oregon research and development lab. The first public demonstration of the virtual reality operated robot will take place at the 2017 FutureFarm Expo on August 15-17.
The one-of-a-kind technology was developed over the last 18 months by Digital Harvest, a Virginia-based agricultural solutions company that recently established a research outpost at the Pendleton UAS Test Range.
To date, the promise of industrial robots taking over “dumb, dirty or dangerous” tasks for workers has yet to be realized outside of the factory floor. Despite tens of thousands of man hours and huge sums invested, robotics researchers and innovators (with few exceptions) have yet to realize the goal of developing cost-effective robots capable of replicating the productivity of skilled farm workers.
As the labor force that tree and vine fruit growers depend on continues to decline, the complexities and costs associated with finding new workers have left the industry in crisis. Multiple surveys of fruit and vegetable growers have confirmed that labor is the number one challenge facing agricultural growth.
The ROVR robotic worker system to be displayed at the FutureFarm Expo is unique in that it bypasses many of the persistent technical challenges of machine learning and intelligence by keeping a human operator in the loop via a virtual reality interface.
“We tried many types of tools to operate the robotic arms, such as joysticks and game controllers, but none were capable of allowing the system to operate at the similar level of accuracy or speed as traditional skilled workers,” says company CEO Young Kim. “By using virtual reality as an operator interface, we not only improved manual dexterity but also opened up the possibility of human workers being able to teleport to work from anywhere.”
The FutureFarm Expo is the annual technology summit of the Oregon FutureFarm Project, a new farm-tech accelerator effort that has brought advanced digital agriculture developers such as Digital Harvest and Yamaha Unmanned Systems to eastern Oregon.
Unlike any other agricultural event in the United States, the Future Farm Expo brings together cutting edge technology developers with ag professionals from the Northwest and around the world. High-value crop growers, livestock ranchers, leading food processors, crop consultants and distinguished agri-tech researchers come together with key policymakers and everyday farmers to share their knowledge in order to develop the new methods needed to feed a rapidly growing world.
This year’s Expo program will offer attendees a comprehensive look at what some are calling Digital Agriculture 2.0. Optimizing farming practices, streamlining production, and reducing the impact on resources are the collective goals in agriculture today. Learning about advanced technologies and how to implement them, today and tomorrow is a key outcome of this event.
Previously undiscussed topics such as beyond line-of-sight crop imaging and managing cattle from the sky will be presented as well. Updates on ongoing developments in farm automation, field robotics, soil sciences, precision irrigation and what-do-to-with-all-that-data will round out the expert presentations.
Among the many key presenters is George Kellerman of Yamaha Motor Ventures & Lab. Kellerman will share his global insights during his presentation titled: “Reinventing Agriculture: How Robotics and Automation Will Save Farming in the 21st Century.”
Because the FFE is focused on “Bringing Clarity to Growers,” this event offers attendees and presenters an opportunity to learn from each other, forge ties, and jointly develop new tools and methods to make each new harvest bigger and better than the last.
A trade show, all group lunches and outdoor field demonstrations of the latest farm drones and automated machinery are all part of the experience.
Space is limited and the Expo sells out each year – order your tickets now. To learn more or attend, visit FutureFarmExpo.tech or contact: Jeff Lorton, FutureFarm Expo Director 503.989.6933 Jeff@dukejoseph.com.