Rowbot Small Autonomous Farm Robot

Rowbot is a fascinating device that will provide autonomous help to farmers.

(Rowbot autonomous on 1/2 mile row of corn)
“When we think about the future in ten years, we’re going to see smaller machines rather than big ones,” said Rowbot’s founder Kent Cavender-Bares in a recent conversation of This Week in Startups podcast. The 64-row corn planters that crawl across the Heartland today are so large and expensive that they only make sense for the most gargantuan, and debt-worthy, farmers. They’re so heavy they compact the soil. And they don’t work if you decide to plant a rye, sorghum or anything besides corn. In contrast, Rowbot is small enough to get between the rows of corn, dropping fertilizer in microdoses, when the crop needs it. Much less fertilizer gets wasted and runs off the field to contaminate the water supply. These are things a big tractor simply cannot do. “Let’s say we just wanted to mix corn and soybeans on the same field. Today you can’t do that easily at scale.”

In his 1966 story At the Bottom of a Hole, Larry Niven describes a self-guided tractor:

Five miles above the sunlight tube, the sky was a patchwork of small squares, split by a central wedding ring of lake and by tributary rivers, a sky alive with the tiny red glints of self-guided tractors.

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