Farmers need to optimize efficiency in the face of mutiple challenges, including labor scarcity, water shortages, and climate change. Fieldin, a smart farm operations management company for high-value crops, today announced that it has acquired Midnight Robotics Technologies Inc., which has been developing autonomous driving for agriculture.
The companies said their combined sensor-based autonomous platform is the first of its kind and will empower growers in day-to-day management of their farms. Fieldin has already deployed the end-to-end system on farms in California and said it is planning additional deployments in the coming months.
“Fieldin’s data-driven, smart farm operations platform and Midnight Robotics’ agricultural autonomous driving technology are a natural fit,” said Boaz Bechar, co-founder and CEO of Fieldin. “In order to create significant ROI [return on investment] and value to growers, the operation and management of the autonomous machinery fleet must be powered by massive amounts of farming data that will 'encrypt' the ideal farming operation mode based on accurate data-driven insights and precise actionable recommendations.”
“With this acquisition, Fieldin’s unmatched collection of farming data, which includes over 49 million hours’ worth of tractor driving, will now be paired with Midnight Robotics’ autonomous driving technology so that actionable insights are acted upon in the smartest, most efficient way possible—autonomously,” he told Robotics 24/7. “Now through a single platform, growers can understand their farming operations needs and direct autonomous equipment to fulfill them, maximizing accuracy and productivity. The unified platform is greater than the sum of its parts and will set the bar for autonomous farming capabilities in the industry.
Data plus autonomy yields more efficient farms
Founded in 2013, Fieldin said its smart farming platform helps growers manage operations including pesticide applications and harvest activities. The San Jose, Calif.-based company added that it connects tractors and machinery with in-field sensors to provide data that can improve production, transparency, and efficiency in the field.
Founded by Innoviz veterans and autonomous driving experts Yonatan Horovitz and Edo Reshef, Midnight Robotics has applied computer vision and artificial intelligence to autonomous agricultural driving. The Tel Aviv, Israel-based firm’s core product is a retrofit kit that it said can add autonomy to any tractor using lidar perception algorithms.
Horovitz will join Fieldin as chief autonomy afficer, and Reshef will be the company’s chief technology officer.
“It’s not enough to have great agricultural data or great autonomous technology—you need to have both to make autonomous farming a reality,” noted Horovitz. “What’s so powerful about this merger is the potent combination of Fieldin’s unparalleled farming data collection, which includes over 49 million hours’ worth of tractor driving, with our driverless technology expertise.”
“We’re excited to join forces with Fieldin because only together will we be able to help farmers reap the benefits of smart and autonomous farming—not a decade from now, but today,” he added.
Fieldin touts rapid deployment, results
Fieldin has offices in Australia and Israel and said it supports more than 20% of the global production of almonds and 30% of U.S.-based lettuce crops. The company offers its smart farming platform through a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model.
“Many people think that autonomous tractors are some magic solution, but at the end of the day, they’re just machinery,” said Bachar. “Your autonomous farm can only be as good as your farm management data.”
“Over the past eight years, we’ve digitized hundreds of farms and over 10,000 tractors and pieces of farming equipment—more than anyone else in the high-value crop world—and amassed a trove of invaluable data that can offer insights into best practices in farm management,” he said. “By acquiring Midnight Robotics, we’re helping farmers close the loop from insight to autonomous action, so they know exactly what they need to do and execute it autonomously, all through the same platform.”
Fieldin said its platform with Midnight Robotics’ autonomy collects farming data and offers guided decision-making and autonomous execution via driverless tractors and other machinery from within the same dashboard.
Deployment of these capabilities takes less than a day for Fieldin's team to retrofit tractors and other farming machinery with autonomy kits that feed data back in real time.
Midnight Robotics provides a lidar-based autonomy retrofit kit for agricultural equipment. Source: Fieldin
Agribot demand still growing
The global market for agricultural robots could experience a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19.3%, expanding from $4.9 billion (U.S.) in 2021 to $11.9 billion in 2026, according to Markets and Markets. While miking robots and drones make up most of that market today, driverless tractors will overtake them in the next three years, said the research firm.
Research and Markets was more bullish, predicting a 25.5% CAGR, from $5.4 billion in 2020 to $21.1 billion by 2026, led by increasing global demand for food and government subsidies, particularly in Europe.
“The market for autonomous technology is still in its early days, but now, with the combination of management platforms, data, and autonomous technology, we believe most high-value crop farms will adopt these solutions in one to two years, creating a market worth billions of dollars in the U.S. alone,” said Bechar. “Our plans for the future are to deploy the unified platform with farms in California and expand our use cases and operations, further develop the ‘autonomous op’ decision-making software, and expand even further globally.”
About the Author
Eugene Demaitre is editorial director of Robotics 24/7. Prior to joining Peerless Media, he was a senior editor at Robotics Business Review and The Robot Report. Demaitre has also worked for BNA (now part of Bloomberg), Computerworld, and TechTarget. He has participated in numerous robotics-related webinars, podcasts, and events worldwide.
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