Apple Sucking Autonomous Vehicles?

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Google Ventures (now know as GV) continues its march to leverage and be involved in all things digital. This time they are leading the investment round in Abundant Robotics, a company building apple picking robots that could eventually handle harvesting a multitude of crops. The breakthrough is how they have tackled some of the challenges of picking the apples using vacuums…helps to avoid becoming a manufacturer of apple sauce with traditional hand grabbing mechanisms.

This space has exploded recently and Abundant Robotics joins a growing group of hardware manufacturers developing autonomous equipment for use on farms, both on the ground and in the sky. Others players include Harvest Automation, Deepfield Robotics and the Autonomous Tractor Company

Agriculture in the U.S. and much of the world is facing a tremendous labor shortage today. Meanwhile, the World Bank estimates we’ll need to make 50 percent more food by 2050 to sustain the growing, global population, with climate change decreasing crop yields by 25 percent outdoors.

The Future Of Farming Is Here?

vertical-farmImagine a farm scenario that increases productivity by 130%, uses 95% less water, involves no pesticides and can be harvested 24 times per year, rain, snow or shine.

Aerofarm, a new jersey based vertical farm company has become a pioneer in this type of farming. What’s driving the explosive growth in this areas…the globe climate changes which are driving significant draught scenarios in many places where farming flourished. Aerofarm isn’t the cheapest game in town. Not yet at least. They will need to invest significantly in the latest robotics and automation capabilities to drive costs down significantly. They are facing high energy costs of running the plants, facility costs of building out the factories with optimized fixtures…all leading to a premium, yet higher quality, sales price initially.

Carnegie Mellon’s University of Computer Science is aggressively working to address the paradigm shift in how we grow food….using government grants to invest heavily in the development of sensing technology, robotics and AI technologies to improve overall crop management using data driven decision making. This is a big market opportunity with growth of agricultural robots set to increase from 32,000 units in 2016 to almost 600,000 units by 2024…creating a ~$75B market.

Implications will change how large scale suppliers invest for the future…quickly retiring old farming techniques susceptible to further climate impacts with faster, better and more scalable solutions. Orange groves, apple orchards and generally vegetables of any type will be produced at scale in a fraction of the time as traditional impacts.

Meet Harry…The Self Driving Shuttle To Solve London’s Rural Commuting Challenges

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London introduces “Harry”, it’s prototype driver-less pod capable of carrying up to four passengers to and from designated routes at breakneck speeds of 10 MPH. This is an initiative born from the UK’s Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) which is designed to behave like the modern day, street legal mono rails.

Essentially shuttling passengers between commuting points and or high traffic areas via a special lane. London is hoping to break the traffic congestion problem by building a network of these autonomous commuting capabilities in both the city and in areas that are not regularly services by bus, train or trams.

Pilot begins in the next week.

Domino’s Tests Autonomous Delivery Bots

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Domino’s pizza is quickly moving from supply chain and experience digitalization to distribution transformation.

This summer, Domino’s in partnership with Starship Technologies , will begin testing autonomous deliver of large pizzas.

Initially scheduled for Hamburg Germany, expansion plans are already in the works for the Netherlands and beyond. Pretty simple extension to experience today…order your pizza via app, messenger, twitter, etc…provide delivery address, pizza gets baked, placed in a small robotic delivery food cart and wait for the notification. Open your door and retrieve your piping hot pizza for the robotics delivery vehicle.

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This area of robotic driven logistic’s is literally exploding, and while drones maybe far off from receiving formal licensing approvals, 4 mph ground based robotic delivery vehicles have a chance to drive a complete disruption (some for the better)  for local retailers and restaurants.

You can quickly imagine a central platform (think Amazon) that you order through, order is sent to fulfillment center or hopefully a local retailer, order is fulfilled and loaded into autonomous deliver vehicle and it shows up outside your door.

This will be areality this summer (actually already is)

Solar Skin Creates Opportunities For Autonomy.

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Here’s a pretty advanced one. Smart skin…designed for amputees to help return certain senses relative to feeling pressure, temperature and dampness. University of Glasgow has developed exactly that and is using solar power to fuel the system, providing greater independence and portability  by removing the need for a connected power source.  “Graphene” is the secret…a flexible material that can now cover covered with a flexible with durability greater than that of steel, and is electrically conductive and transparent.

The material draws and converts power from the sun’s rays sufficient enough to power to support movement of prosthetic hands. While the power is used in real time, they will eventually determine a way to store it efficiently when sunlight is available.

Thinking bigger picture here….you could create autonomous everything….from prosthetic limbs to life like pets to robotic workers in the fields based on advancements in bendable electronics and sensing technologies.

 

 

“Spyfruit” could change the expectations of supply chain delivery

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Managing produce quality from farm to table has long been an issue for growers, manufacturers and ultimately distributors given the limited lifespan of a mature product. Given the dramtic advancements in sensors it seems like there must be a better way to use data and monitoring to drive higher quality.

A swiss company called Empa is looking to help manage the process using data and sensors to predict quality and freshness.

Essentially the concept is to place sensing devices (“spy fruit”) in produce boxes (and yes they look like the real thing) to measure temperature, density of packing (causes bruising) and quality of ride. These devices not only look like the real fruit, but they are made from material that makes them the same density…this is how you get to knowing how the fruit felt about its journey.

To date, the company has developed apples, oranges, mangoes and bananas. Devices are expected to cost somewhere around $50 USD to begin and can be used endlessly.

Adidas Taps Technology To Create Personalized Products

RTX31WBTAdidas is looking to breakthrough long design and production cycles by enabling on demand manufacturing…of sweaters (not shoes.) German fitness apparel company recently launched a pop up store in Berlin that allows consumers to design, manufacture and purchase a unique merino wool sweaters for ~$200 USD.

Here’s how it work… consumers set into a dark booth that projects a variety of pattern options and colors on the individual so they can get a sense for how it would look. They can then adjust for colors, styles, size and then place the order in the store. Instantly the robotic looms go into action and knit the sweater. Some elements appear to require a hand finishing, then the products are laundered, dried and packaged for delivery. The entire process takes about 4 hours start to finish. Memory of experience hopefully last longer.

While sweaters aren’t set to be the next breakthrough fashion trend, Adidas is tapping into localized manufacturing capabilities that enable them to maintain virtual shelves of products without having to retire expensive inventory.

This could radically change distribution models and place many traditional manufacturers at risk…something many industries are watching closely.