Smart Ag Raises $5 Million to Develop Autonomous Farming Software

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【Summary】Smart Ag’s area of expertise for its line of autonomous farming products is row-crop agriculture (dry bean, potato, cotton, soybeans and canola).

Michael Cheng    Jun 21, 2018 10:24 AM PT
Smart Ag Raises $5 Million to Develop Autonomous Farming Software

In the commercial farming sector, many companies are gearing up for the automation push. The technology is applicable to almost all aspects of agricultural operations, from planting and crop monitoring to harvesting and processing.

Iowa-based Stine Seed, the world's largest private seed establishment, is currently leading research efforts to bring driverless technology into agricultural markets. The business invested over $5 million in Smart Ag, a startup that specializes in autonomous software, in order to boost productivity and innovation within the multi-billion dollar industry.

Stine Seed holds a whopping 900 patents related to soybean and corn genetics. Valued at over $3 billion, the company closely works with Monsanto and Syngenta on various research projects. One of its most valuable products includes a robust, high-density corn variety that improves average yields by decreasing the amount of space between each crop.

Driverless Tractors and Software

Smart Ag's area of expertise is row-crop agriculture (dry bean, potato, cotton, soybeans and canola). This type of farming caters to large-scale production, as it relies on heavy-duty machinery, such as tractors and network-based irrigation systems. Self-driving vehicles have a place in row-crop operations, due to methodical planting techniques and linear layouts associated with the practice.

"Farming should no longer be defined by what the equipment industry decides is better or more profitable. We believe agriculture is best when farmers have choices," said Colin Hurd, Founder and CEO of Smart Ag.

"The best way to improve our customers' operational capacity is to enable them to use automation and driverless technology on their farms. With the correct technology and knowledge, farmers can do the seemingly impossible."

Plug-and-Play Automation

Smart Ag's products are designed to streamline the adoption of driverless vehicles for commercial farmers. One of the company's flagship platforms consists of a plug-and-play solution (AutoCart), which equips existing tractors with driverless features.

Such systems can be utilized with grain-cart tractors during harvests, allowing individuals to scale operations quickly with less labor. Additionally, individuals do not have to be in the same location to initiate commands.

According to the business, its plug-and-play autonomous software is capable of performing the same tasks as a human driver. Furthermore, it claims the system can complete such meticulous work in a safer and more reliable manner. The platform leverages a digital control panel, which tracks the status and route of the vehicle.

Smart Ag also offers supporting software for setting up autonomous routes, as well as a smart data-collection system (SmartNX – available for pre-order only). The digital tool captures numerous types of data in real-time, such as moisture levels, fuel consumption, crop type and tractor speed. With SmartNX, farming operators can monitor driverless vehicles from a remote location. The system, which works with AutoCart, transmits data via the cloud, to compatible devices.

"Agriculture has always been about the development and application of new ideas. We are pleased to be on the forefront of this and see the value in the technology for our own seed production and farming operations," said Stine Seed in a statement.

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