The Next Generation of Farm Robots to be Smaller, Low Cost
We’ve been reporting on the potential for farm robots for years, but why aren’t we seeing them in the fields? Ripe Robotics CEO Hunter Jay says part of that reason might be the need to shift focus on smaller and lower cost machines.
Jay… “The traditional way in agriculture do it is you expect a piece of equipment to replace like an entire crew of people. Like if you have like a combine harvester that replaces, you know, dozens and dozens of people, and you have one person driving it and it's mechanized. And so that intuition, I think doesn't actually work very well in this case. We want really small, low cost machines and lots of them, which might only will replace the small number of people. 1, 2, 3, 4 people. And then because the machines are lower cost and cheaper, we can get to market sooner. If a machine breaks down, it doesn't ruin the entire harvest because you have other machines or other people working alongside it. You can iterate them faster because the machines are are low cost, so it's okay if, you know, turns out the technology and one machine didn't work great. We'll just move on to the next one. That high iteration rate enabled by the low cost really solves a lot of problems.”
Jay says Ripe Robotics have been “almost brutal” about keeping the costs of their machines down and iterating the design quickly. They’re testing their sixth model in Australian orchards this season.