We are thrilled to welcome a collection of super stars to our Founding Robotics Team! Led by our CTO Brian Beyer and backed up by David LaRose and John Bares, this is a tight knit group who have all worked together before--most were involved in developing the V1 Rowbot prototype. Keep an eye out for posts soon about a completely new V2 prototype hitting fields soon.
Read about Matt, Chris, Matt, Chani, Nick, and Nolan on our team page.
We are thrilled to welcome Brian Beyer to the founding team at Rowbot!
Brian comes to Rowbot from our strategic partner, Carnegie Robotics, where he led the Standoff Robotic Explosive Hazard Detection (SREHD) project for the past several years. During his tenure at Carnegie Robotics, Brian was deeply involved with Rowbot and led the development of our V1 prototype. See the shot below from 2014 when Brian (yellow hat) was chatting with growers at a demonstration in central Illinois!
At ROWBOT, we are driven to increase farmer profitability by reducing input costs and boosting yields. It has become clear to us that a management plan with multiple in-season nitrogen applications is the ticket to using this costly input efficiently. Our goal is to make these in-season nitrogen applications easy and extremely cost effective.
During the 2016 growing season we carried out two nitrogen strip trials in collaboration with Shannon Gomes (Cedar Basin Crop Consulting), who connected us with a couple of progressive growers in NE Iowa.
For the field data shown here, we had three treatments replicated three times in strips that were about 1200 feet long. We are indebted to Clark McGregor, who took care of the early nitrogen applications and harvested the strips.
Treatment A was the farmer's normal treatment--most of the nitrogen was applied during mid June. We added a second in-season nitrogen application for treatments B and C. Based on the Adapt-N model, the recommended application for B and C on July 1st was about 35 lb N/acre. We decided to have the B treatment at 60 lbs/acre and the C treatment a bit lower than the Adapt-N recommendation at 30 lb N/acre.
The harvest data are in, and the results are quite impressive! Even with 15 lb N/acre less in treatment B, the measured yield was slightly higher than the control--treatment A (statistically, there's not a difference between the yield of treatments A and B given we have just one set of strip trials). Surprisingly, treatment C that had a whopping 45 lb N/acre less than the control had only a slightly lower yield (the difference is only marginally significant).
The addition of a second in-season nitrogen application meant that we gained about two weeks of additional insight into the season before the final nitrogen application was needed. Plus, not all of our nitrogen was on the field during late June, which was a fairly wet period (see comparison to other seasons below).
We are making plans for an expanded set of field trials for the 2017 growing season that should further underscore the value growers can realize through multiple, in-season nitrogen applications using the ROWBOT platform.
Earlier in 2016, the team behind Beck's Practical Farm Research (PFR) reached out asking if we could take part in a seeding trial. That led us to the outskirts of Indianapolis during early September to lay down cover crop seed using the ROWBOT platform.
As is outlined in the great video (below) produced by the PFR team at Beck's, they wanted to compare results from a simulated aerial application, seeding with a drill after corn harvest, and a high-quality broadcast seeding by our ROWBOT platform.
They'll be collecting data and imagery from the trial, which we'll post here. Sounds like the stand resulting from the ROWBOT is quite uniform compared to the simulated aerial seeding. As expected, the drilled seeding is very uniform, but its growth was delayed by several weeks given that they had to wait to do that seeding until after the corn was harvested.
Last week, I did some cover crop seeding at the Fitzgerald farm in central Minnesota. Those are young red clover plants that were seeded on Sept. 19th, photographed yesterday, less than two weeks later. If you are used to looking at photos on our site, you'll notice some vegetation (a.k.a. weeds) on the ground between corn rows, which is typical in an organic operation (incidentally, removing weeds on large organic fields is a big opportunity, which is a good match for robotics).
Yesterday, I was able to grab a couple of videos while chasing the machine at 4 mph (a very fast walk on the relatively uneven terrain of a typical field). Enjoy!
Just back from a few hours of seeding cover crops at our test site on the University of Minnesota's Research and Outreach Station in Rosemount, MN. Once again, we're collaborating with Prof. Scotty Wells, who has a number of other cover crop studies underway. This is also part of the New Agricultural Bioeconomy project at the U of MN, which has received funding from the U's MnDRIVE initiative.
With this study, we are testing the impact of planting date on cover crop biomass. Why? Well, it's tough to get a successful cover crop following corn if one waits until after harvest, which may occur just before the snow starts to fly. Being able to get the cover crop established at the end of the summer or early fall helps it get established well before the onset of winter. The ROWBOT way, so to speak, is to get in when corn is mature and lay down cover crop in a best-of-class broadcast application. This study is designed to confirm what is logical: an earlier planting date should yield a more robust cover crop with more biomass, which is a decent proxy for the soil health benefits provided by cover crops.
We planted a round of plots today (9/15), and another set of plots two weeks ago (9/1). There will be one more planting date around the middle of October. Last year's initial study, while not as rigorous as this year's, suggested that less biomass results from later planting dates. That makes sense, and it is the reason we're working hard to commercialize the ROWBOT technology so that we can seed cover crops on millions of acres long before corn is harvested!
Check out the photos from today of the cover crops seeded two weeks ago. Note that there were a few rain events after planting (over one inch on 9/6 and another half inch on 9/7).
This past fall we reported on our cover crop seeding trials done in collaboration with Prof. Scotty Wells at the University of Minnesota. Below are a couple of Earth Day photos taken of two of the plots. We used the ROWBOT platform to plant both plots with cereal rye--a fast growing species that is a trusted cover crop because it is easy to get established, especially later in the season.
We'll be getting out soon to do a careful biomass harvest, however, the qualitative result is that there was more growth on the plots that were planted earlier in the fall. If this preliminary result holds, then it will underscores the value of getting cover crops seeded well before corn harvest.
During the 2016 season, we plan to repeat and expand these seeding trials. It'll be important to get some seeding dates in August, too. We believe that seeding cover crops into tall corn using the ROWBOT platform during August and early September will provide excellent results, even in the northern part of the Corn Belt. Stay tuned!