The new buggy collects multiple data points within crop fields
By Diego Flammini
A U.S. technology company has developed a piece of farm machinery designed to help producers increase yields.
Alphabet, Google’s parent company, has released what it calls a “plant buggy” capable of collecting several data points from within a crop field and its surrounding environment.
The buggy is part of Alphabet’s X lab’s project, titled Mineral.
The project’s goal is to develop new ways to produce food for the global population.
“To feed the planet’s growing population, global agriculture will need to produce more food in the next 50 years than in the previous 10,000 – at a time when climate change is making our crops less productive,” Mineral’s website says.
The buggy, a four-wheeled machine that rolls through fields, uses sensors, cameras and other equipment to collect crop information like plant height. It also collects soil and weather data.
Researchers merge the collected information with satellite images and weather data to create models that project how crops will grow.
The buggy has already been used to study crops.
“Over the past few years, the plant buggy has trundled through strawberry fields in California and soybean fields in Illinois, gathering high-quality images of each plant and counting and classifying every berry and every bean,” Elliott Grant, Mineral’s project lead, wrote on Mineral’s site.
The buggy is still in the experimental stage. When and if it becomes commercially available is unknown.
But Mineral staff have committed to working with farmers, plant breeders and agronomists to come up with practical solutions the industry can use.