In the last paragraph of the first part of this article, two questions were posed; what are the innovations? What are their contributions to achieving global food security? The EA 50 innovations cut across the on – and – off – farm operations for better yield, loss reduction, damage control, time and output efficiencies. One of such innovations is Tiger – mate 255 Field Cultivator invented by Case IH, manufacturers of CASE Tractor series.
The Tiger-Mate 255 sets new standards for seedbed preparation with advanced features that include an enhanced shank assembly, split-the-middle sweep design and single-point hydraulic depth control. All work together to create an ideal growing environment for crop germination under various field conditions.
The workhorse component of the Tiger-Mate 255 is the superior shank assembly, combining force and flexibility to support field speeds of up to 16 kilometers per hour. Thicker shanks, a beefed-up shank guard channel and increased holding power help to manage fast-changing field conditions due to climatic variability. A unique rear-flowing parabolic sweep design creates superior soil and residue flow along the entire width of the unit.
Thus, rocks or stumps are not match for Tiger-Mate sweeps, made from high-strength Earth Metal alloy steel composition. For mechanized farming, seedbed preparation is highly valuable for early crop germination, roots development, soil water utilization and nutrients uptake. This permits optimum crop growth, which is fundamental to achieving potential yield.
A unique rear-flowing parabolic sweep design creates superior soil and residue flow along the entire width of the unit. Thus, rocks or stumps are not matched for Tiger-Mate sweeps, made from high-strength Earth Metal alloy steel composition. For mechanized farming, seedbed preparation is highly valuable for early crop germination, roots development, soil water utilization and nutrients uptake. This permits optimum crop growth, which is fundamental to achieving potential yield.
Another interesting innovation is automatic thinning machine called LetuceBot. This machine has opened a window for a new era of smart machines in agriculture. Agriculture could not be left behind in the ultimate use of ICT to triple productivity and reduce labor in this century.
To understand how LetuceBot works smartly, one to needs to understand how lettuce is cultivated. Multiple of stands are planted within a small area with intention of thinning out the small ones to allow the most viable stands to have more space, nutrients and water to grow faster and better. It is similar to planting of millet or sesame. The removal to reduce plants population is called thinning, a tedious job that requires a lot of quick decision of which to remove or leave. There are few people ready to do this kind of time consuming and labor intensive work especially in the developed countries.
Blue River Technology (BRT) invented the LettuceBot machine. BRT is a United States of America (USA) based company with her headquarters located at Sunnyvale, a small city in Santa Clara County, California with a population of 140,095 as presented by the 2010 United State Census. BRT is one of the World most innovative companies as it won the 2017 “Most Innovative Robotics Fast Company” award and “The Artificial Intelligence 100 CB Insights” award in addition to being EA 50 innovative and other notable awards. The company specializes in building new generation of smart agriculture equipment and devices
What was the motivation for inventing LettuceBot? “So actually going out in the field and finding the lettuce thinning was a problem, a problem worth solving, so we didn’t start with a technology and then look for something to apply it, we started with a problem,” says Redden a roboticist and cofounder of Blue River Technology who was quoted by an online paper. He added “We’ve looked at millions plants, and we’ve told our algorithms, here’s what a “lettuce looks like, so our machine is just tremendously good at what lettuce looks like.” The LettuceBot is pulled behind a tractor and can thin four beds at once. Information from cameras mounted on the bottom help it makes billions of calculations per second selecting the best plant based on size, position and distance to its neighbor.
When the LettuceBot makes a decision, it hits the plant’s leaves with a precise spray of fertilizer killing that plant while nourishing the roots of the lettuce left behind. A kind of herbicidic application of fertilizer; killing some nourishing others. LettuceBot thin a field quicker than its human counter parts while ultimately making better choices, the goal is for it to leave more viable lettuce in the field. So instead of a crew of ten people out manually thinning a field, there’s a crew of one or two operating the LettuceBot.
This just the starting point of introducing commercial smart machines into agriculture, taking away the menial tasks away. So that people can do higher-level jobs of managing machines that do menial tasks. The overall goal of smart devices in agriculture is to make plants communicate their needs while the machines attend to such needs – “I’m thirsty,” or “I need some nitrogen fertilizer”, or “some bugs or pests are attacking me”. This is certainly for the future as Agricultural Engineers are busy cracking their brains to make the impossible become possible using smart equipment and devices.
There are forty-eight other innovations under the category of EA 50 innovative awards that space and time may not permit me to discuss. Rotary tillers, front – fold planters, Auto crop flow, drip calculator, mulch finisher and many others – all aimed at fighting global food insecurity.
Another way of showcasing innovation is recognition of individuals for their innovative ways to increase agricultural productivity. Under this category, there are Young Engineering Achievement Awards. These awards are four.
The first one is the New Holland Young Researcher Award, which recognizes dedicated use of scientific methodology to seek out facts or principles significant to the Agricultural Engineering profession.
The second one is Larry W. Turner Young Extension Professional Award. This award recognizes personal character and outstanding achievement in disseminating, sharing and applying engineering knowledge to address agricultural challenges.
The third is A. W. Farrall Young Educator Award, which recognizes outstanding success in motivating others to apply engineering principles to the problems of agricultural engineering.
The last is Sunkist Young Designer Award, which honors the development of technical plan that influences agricultural engineering progress as evidenced by use in the field.
These awards are made to ASABE members under the age of 40. The four 2017 awardees are Matt Darr, Joe D. Luck, Leigh A. H. Krometis and Brian M. Huenink. Matt Darr is a professor who bagged the New Holland Young Researcher award for outstanding research in biomass feedstock logistics and advance machinery engineering.
Luck is an associate professor and precision agricultural engineer who won Turner Young Extension Award for his substantial contributions in the development and delivery of a regional extension program in the area of precision agriculture data management. Krometis, a young lady is the recipient of 2017 A. W. Farrall Young Educator award for contribution to teaching, research and service and for her dedication to students at all levels of education. Huenink bagged Sunkist Young Designer Award for outstanding technical knowledge in equipment design, encouraging professional and community leadership.
In addition to several other awards, there are three distinct gold medal awards provided by three major agricultural engineering corporations. The first one is John Deere Gold Medal Award for “distinguished achievement in the application of science and art to the soil”. This year’s award was presented to Qin Zhang for contributions in applying science to the soil with automation technology for plant production.
Zhang is a professor and internationally recognized scholar in agricultural automation technology. The second Gold Medal award is Massey – Ferguson Educational award to “honor those whose dedication to the spirit of learning and teaching in the field of agricultural engineering had advanced our agricultural knowledge and practice and whose efforts serve as an inspiration to others”.
This year’s award went to Ann D. Christy, a professor for her sustained and substantial contributions and impart on engineering education through excellence in scholarship, instruction, service and mentoring. The last Gold Medal award is the Cyrus Hall McCormick Jerome Increase Case Award for “Exceptional and Meritorious Engineering Achievement in Agriculture”. Scott A. Shearer won this award for development of machinery engineering technology and innovative futuristic concept that shape precision farming system.
A reader may notice that most of the ASABE members living USA won the awards but the entries came from all corners and crannies of the continents where agricultural engineering is being practiced. This means that the entries are opened to public with laid down regulations and members and organizations have equal opportunity to win. The lesson for us here in Nigeria is that our professional bodies must recognize interests that promote society at large and tailor their activities toward achieving such interests. ASABE is working hard to fight global food insecurity and the fight is getting harder by the day.