Teams create agricultural robots for airBridge competition


From left, Nathan Muchowski of Muchowski Farms, Caleb Friedrick from University of Regina and Jerry Martin from Pee Dee Precision at the 2016 agBOT Challenge. (Submitted photo)

By Renee Larr

Agricultural communication solutions company airBridge will again host the agBOT Challenge, a competition open to entrepreneurs and university teams who work to create autonomous vehicles that can perform agricultural tasks.

“These vehicles have different robotics components,” said Rachel Gerrish, director of operations at airBridge and a Zionsville resident. “Last year, we challenged the teams to perform seeding in the field. The machines would not only drive autonomously but plant in the field as well.

“It needed to be able to make live decisions and have videos from the front and rear showing what the machine is doing,”

The seeding competition will return this year, and Rockville-based airBridge has added a weed and feed contest.

“The machines are going to be able to go into the field, identify weeds and then make the decision to what the plants need. If it’s a corn plant, is it time to feed it? If it’s a weed, how do we want to eradicate it? Chemically or mechanically? It makes that decision on its own and then performs that task,” Gerrish said.

The competition is held June 23 to 25 at Gerrish Farms in Rockville. The community is invited to attend the NextGen Expo from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 23.

“We encourage youth groups or anyone interested in agricultural, robotics or technology to come out and join us on the farm for the day,” Gerrish said. “All of our teams are there and they have their worksites and robots there. We make it a fun interactive day of learning.  We have some great speakers and influential leaders there.”

The hope is the research and development will be able to be commercialized for use on farms. To register for the NextGen Expo, visit

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