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The tractor Team Grit has proposed to use in the agBOT Challenge 2016.


Sowing the seeds of the future: CMU-affiliated robotics team takes on agricultural challenge

Grit Robotics — a robot-building team made up of community members and Colorado Mesa University students, alumni and faculty — spent part of the summer competing in the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency’s Robotics Challenge. The team didn’t win, but is taking the lessons it learned and applying them to another exciting opportunity. The agBOT Challenge 2016, which will be held next May in Rockville, Ind., aims to demonstrate the effects of cutting-edge technology on agriculture.

Grit submitted a proposal to a panel of judges and was selected to participate in the challenge, which organizers describe not as a contest but as a showcase for creative solutions to agricultural and food production systems.

“The challenge is to give creative young minds an outlet for their skills in an area that could have huge impacts on feeding the world,” said event organizer Steven Gerrish.”There’s a strong probability that it will benefit small farmers as well as large commodity production operators.”

The agBOT Challenge has three phases over the next three years. At the 2016 event, teams will compete to develop the most efficient unmanned crop seeder capable of planting two varieties of seed over 12 half-mile rows. The seeders must also provide real-time data via a mobile tracking antenna, and their performance will be monitored by drones. The most successful team wins $50,000.

Assistant professor of computer science Karl Castleton and computer science professor Warren MacEvoy, PhD, are members of Team Grit and have successfully participated in autonomous vehicle challenges in the past. The team has already conducted some research to determine key elements for its seeder, and will design and test it with assistance from local landscaping company High Country Lawns.

The agBOT Challenge 2016’s attendees include innovators and leaders from all areas of agriculture, technology and agricultural business. Among the event’s sponsors are the United States Department of Agriculture and John Deere. The other teams chosen to participate in the 2016 challenge are Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis, Purdue University, Virginia Tech University, Michigan State University, Ohio State University, the University of Regina, Case Western Reserve University, MESATech, Muchowski Farms and Pee Dee Precision Ag.

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