Three brothers from Minnesota are working toward a new technology that will enhance nitrogen applications and increase nitrogen use efficiency. It sounds like something from Jules Vern, but these three innovators, along with a team of robotics engineers believe their "Rowbot" can help reduce nutrient runoff, increase in-season applications and target nitrogen on a plant-by-plant basis, all while reducing soil compaction and saving growers time.
Fertilizer is typically applied with large, heavy implements but when corn plants reach a certain height, many farmers lack the high clearance gear for late season applications. In some hybrids, studies have shown that applications as late as V10 can give a great benefit to total yield. The Rowbot is seven feet long, but narrow enough to fit between corn rows, not matter how tall the plants grow. This eliminates soil compaction and allows for intensely focused applications.
If you have seen the Roomba, a vacuum that cleans floors without human guidance, this is the same type of idea, applied to the farm.
The team envisions a future in which several Rowbots might be deployed in a large plot and left to do their work with minimal supervision, and while the initial research has been on corn, early successes have them looking ahead to other applications in soybeans.
This is the sort of innovation from grassroots thinkers that has made American Agriculture a beacon of crop production to the world. Rowbot currently offers services to growers in Minnesota and claims their system will help growers get 'more bang for their buck' when it comes to fertilizer. For more information on this innovative project, visit rowbot.com.
Photos and video provided by rowbot.com.