Title: Autonomous Vehicles / Robotics
Date: Wed Jul 26, 2017
Time: 1:20 PM - 3:20 PM
Moderator: Marc Vanacht
Farming Autonomation: State of the Art Technology Today and What the Future Holds

Learn about the current state of autonomy and how will it impact the agriculture industry, including labor, furthering todays current precision ag tech, and improvement of farm operations. Over the years ASI has delivered autonomous vehicles in many market segments from mining to ag and automotive to military. Through experience, we have learned some additional elements to going autonomous that everyone can learn from.

Mel Torrie (speaker)
Autonomous Solutions Inc.
Logan, UT
Mr. Torrie has a master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Utah State University and is founder and CEO of Autonomous Solutions Inc. (ASI) in Logan, Utah. ASI develops and sells systems for driverless ground vehicle control in Mining, Military, Agriculture, Material Handling, Automotive Proving Grounds, Industrial Cleaning and Security. Prior to founding ASI 17 years ago, Mr. Torrie worked at Utah State University where he managed two NASA Space Shuttle payloads. Mel is a sought after speaker in the robotics community and has delivered addresses at conference events such as the Precision Farming Expo, RoboBusiness, The Canadian Institute of Mining, Optimizing Mining Operations, Robotics Alley, and Rise Hong Kong.
Length (approx): 40 min
Collaborative Teams of Heterogeneous Robots for Agricultural Applications

In this talk, I will show how small, collaborative, and autonomous robots could provide breakthrough solutions to key agricultural challenges. US agriculture is extremely efficient, producing large amount of foods with very little labor. A large driving force behind this success has been mechanization of large agricultural equipment. Harvesters, tractors, and even backhoes are increasingly being automated by the leaders of the agricultural equipment industry. There are many key problems in modern agriculture however, that are not directly addressable by large equipment, some examples include precision re-seeding after flood damage, inter-crop weeding for herbicide resistant weeds, and under canopy monitoring for plant health and stress. Perhaps we need a whole new class of reliable agricultural equipment: small, collaborative, heterogeneous robotic teams that work 24/7 under and above the canopy. Indeed, electronics, power-systems, control, and machine learning technologies are now at a critical point and we are poised to usher a breakthrough in small autonomous agricultural robots. I will discuss some of the work we have been doing at my lab in UIUC. My goal is to present an overview of the state-of-the-art in this technology and where breakthroughs are needed. I will also show interesting videos of these small robots doing useful things in agricultural settings.

Girish Chowdhary (speaker)
Assistant Professor
University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, Ag and Bio Engineering, Coordinated Science Lab
Urbana, IL
Girish Chowdhary is an Assistant Professor at Univ of Illinois. Agricultural and Biological engineering department. Dr. Chowdhary has a Ph.D. degree from Georgia Institute of Technology. He then spent around two years at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems and the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics as a postdoctoral associate. He holds a BE with honors from RMIT university in Melbourne, Australia. Prof. Chowdhary is the author of over 80 peer-reviewed publications spanning the area of adaptive control, fault tolerant control, autonomy and decision-making, machine learning, vision and LIDAR based perception for Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS). He has led the development of over 10 Unmanned Aerial Systems for research. He is the winner of the Air Force Young Investigator Award, and the Aerospace Guidance and Controls Systems Committee Dave Ward Memorial award. His recent research is focused on the immediate need to create autonomous systems capable of long duration operation in harsh, uncertain, and changing outdoor environments.
Length (approx): 40 min
Artificial Intelligence: Smart Machines for Weed Control and Beyond

Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, computer vision and robotics are just beginning to be integrated into production agriculture. These technologies promise to enable the next wave of precision agriculture by moving from zone management to plant management. Learn about the opportunities and challenges of managing every plant, and how Blue River Technology is utilizing these technologies to deploy See & Spray machines that apply herbicide only to weeds.

A video of this talk is available here,

Ben Chostner (speaker)
VP Business Development
Blue River Technology
Sunnyvale, CA 94085
Ben Chostner joined the Blue River team as the second employee. He has played a key role in bringing the See & Spray machines to life by linking grower needs to R&D in the lab. Previously, Ben worked as a consultant with the Boston Consulting Group. Ben earned a BS Mechanical Engineering from University of Illinois and an MBA from Harvard. Ben grew up in Illinois and comes from a long line of farmers.
Length (approx): 40 min