The big money in American agriculture is in the major commodities such as corn, soybeans, and wheat. It would make sense that technological innovation would focus on these areas.
Yet tech innovations in specialty crops sometimes precede innovations for the big commodities. One example is a smart harvester that can tell the difference between weeds and crops in vegetables. It’s the creation of Stout, an artificial intelligence company based in Salinas, CA.
“The Stout Smart Cultivator is a software-defined, tractor drawn implement that uses machine vision and artificial intelligence to cultivate and weed fields using mechanical blades,” says the company’s website. “We built the Smart Cultivator because everything else kept breaking down in the field and removing crops as well as weeds.”
“The six-row cultivator is guided by cameras, LED lights and on-wheel speed sensors that work in tandem to allow it to sweep around plants and cultivate weeds,” writes Chris Torres in Farm Progress. ‘Smart cultivator’ is impressive technology (farmprogress.com)
Stout introduced the machine in 2021, but New Holland, the major tractor manufacturer, has bought into the company and is selling the cultivator through its dealers.
“Each Smart Cultivator clears 1-2 acres per hour depending on soil conditions using mechanical blades controlled by our proprietary AI model that recognizes each weed and each plant individually with 99.99% accuracy. No crop kills,” says Stout.
“Since the machines are software-defined, their capabilities will only increase over time which protects your investment and ensures that your Stout implements continue to add more and more value to your program the longer you own them,” we are also told.
• A self-tuning AI vision system
• Precision seed line tracking allows for tight machine to plant spacing
• Automatic bed height control to eliminate bed pressure
• A floating 3-point hitch, which allows machine to move independently from tractor
The cultivator is priced at around $300,000. Each cultivator can remove about 25-30 people from the field, the company claims. “Perhaps even more valuable is the control the machine gives you by enabling you to weed your fields when you need to instead of when a weeding crew is available.”
People in or near Illinois can check out the new machine at the Farm Progress Show in Decatur, IL, August 29-31.