Northwest Nazarene University, Automated agriculture, IdaBOT
Experts from the Northwest Nazarene University are working on IdaBOT, the future of farming. Image from E Search.

The Northwest Nazarene University is developing two new technology projects to enhance agricultural procedures. NNU’s Associate Profesor, Duke Bulanton, is leading the team in charge of the IdaBOT, a machine capable of moving throughout vineyards and orchards automatically.

Also, the professor is currently working on a multi-spectral camera that uses infrared capture to analyze the wavelength of fruit blossoms, in an effort achieve better crop yield estimations.

Mr. Bulanton expects to receive the proper funding by The State Department for further developing the technology, according to an article from the Idaho Press Tribune. Experts estimate the population will grow to 9 billion by the year 2050, so most developed countries around the world are investing on automated agriculture research to enhance food production for the coming years.

NNU’s researchers are aiming at automated farming

Duke Bulanton is an expert on robot harvesting and previously worked in Florida before becoming an associate professor of physics and engineering at the NNU.

He started the research for the IdaBOT with fellow engineer Josh Griffin in 2015 after The State Department’s Specialty Crop Grant Program offered them over $80,000  for funding the project for two years, and hiring a couple of students to help in the process.

The IdaBOT is an automated machine designed to do numerous time-intensive tasks and carry heavy farm equipment, though the scientists are primarily focusing the robot on handling chemical spraying first.

The IdaBOT would be remote-controlled

Radio frequency identifications will be used to control the machine and help it move across vineyards with tags that look like stickers placed on different areas that serve as pointers.

The engineers would send a prototype of the idaBOT to the Sunnyslope Wine area of Cadwell for testing by vineyard owners as a measure from the researchers to get a reliable feedback regarding flaws or possible enhancements.

Mr.Bulanton said the robot could be compatible with similar technology such as modern farming drones used to collect crop data.

A mobile camera that helps to count crops

The second project is a multi-spectral camera designed to capture color wavelengths of fruit blossoms, allowing better crop yield estimates.

Professor Bulanton came up with the idea during a conversation about blossom season with orchard owner, Mike Williamson. Mr.Williamson let the scientist fly a drone over the vineyard that took near-infrared pictures of the blooms, resulting in clearer images when compared to a regular camera.

The gadget is being made small enough to be attached to a cellphone and would work via an app. This technology will help farmers to estimate crops earlier, a great asset, according to Mr.Williamson.

Mr. Burlanton is hoping to receive over $90,500 from The Idaho State Department to fund this project. A sum that would cover the entire developing costs of the camera said the professor in a press release.

Source: Idaho Press