August 26, 2016

Tanimura & Antle and the weeding take down

By: John Louie, Farm Services

One of the most important tasks on the farm is weeding; it eliminates competition between crops and weeds for soil nutrients, water, space, and sunlight. Being faced with a shortage of labor, we have begun to implement labor saving technologies such as the RoboVator.

The RoboVator is a robotic weeding machine that uses machine vision and mechanical knives to weed and clean fields. The RoboVator is mounted on the back of a typical tractor and uses halogen lamps, infrared cameras, and high powered computers to identify invasive weeds from our precious vegetables. The camera and computer combinations continuously make decisions on what weeds to kill and what crops to save as we drive through the field. As the machine distinguishes the crops from the weeds, small knives engage and cut away weeds that are scattered throughout the bed.

The RoboVator is most effective when the crop is larger than the weeds because the machine uses size comparison to differentiate between the plants in the field.  Fortunately, this is not a problem in fields transplanted by our Plant Tape program.  The larger plant size, consistent spacing, the accurate planting, and the high uniformity of Plant Tape creates nearly perfect conditions for the RoboVator to work to its best potential.

As a shortage of labor looms in the Salinas Valley, we as farmers need to seek out labor saving technology. Tanimura & Antle is slowly beginning to seek out new technologies such as the RoboVator and Plant Tape transplanting. The development and implementation of these technologies can be costly and challenging, but farmers must think outside of the box in order to continue growing food for a growing population. The future is here, and now we can add computer engineer/scientist to the lengthy list of desirable skills for a farmer.