The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has announced $3 million in grants to three universities to advance the use of co-robots in production agriculture.
The University of California, Davis has been awarded $1,069,598 to develop theoretical and technological tools to enable the design, optimization, prototyping, and field-testing of consistently high-throughput, cost-effective mechanized harvesting systems for modern orchards.
The grants are part of the National Robotics Initiative (NRI), a federal research partnership which includes NIFA, the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the U.S. Departments of Defense and Energy.
The NRI’s goal is to accelerate the development and use of robots in the U.S. that work alongside or cooperatively with people.
The program aims to develop the next generation of robotics, advance the capability and usability of such systems and artifacts, and encourage existing and new communities to focus on innovative application areas.
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Other grant recipients include the University of Minnesota at St. Paul - $914,565. The funds will help develop planning algorithms for robots to autonomously operate in complex environments, including apple orchards, so that commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) robot systems can be used in automation tasks involving specialty crops.
The University of Pennsylvania at Philadelphia will receive $556,726 to study unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) which operate with human scouts to research solutions for specialty crop farmers to improve how farmers can obtain timely estimates of yields, diagnose crop stress, and detect pests.