Concept: San Francisco agtech startup Bear Flag Robotics has introduced an autonomous tractor solution for farming. When retrofitted with existing tractors, it turns them into autonomous tractors. The startup aims to provide solutions for labor shortages, increasing production costs, and tight operation windows.

Nature of Disruption: The tractor automation technology centralizes equipment operations that form Mission Control. Mission Control gets real-time information coming from the tractor. The information ranges from engine health to time-to-completion of field tasks. Apart from telemetry, operators have access to 360 degrees live video feeds that allow them to assess and optimize operations. The automation technology leverages edge computing to process perception data from radar, LiDAR, and cameras, as well as other localization sensors. The on-tractor gateway collect computer vision information, processes it, and transmits it back to Mission Control. The computing is done on the OnLogic system. The tractors can be controlled from anywhere and the technology is scalable to fit on the tractor fleet.

Outlook: Farmers worldwide are facing farm labor shortage due to an aging workforce, decreased interest in farming, and stricter immigration laws, and comparatively poor wages. Also, security reasons such as work fatigue, difficult terrain, exposure to the environment, and other elements have driven people off farming activities. Bear Flag Robotics’ tractor automation solution tries to answer the challenges faced in farming activities. It automates tractor activities, gives visibility to them, helps manage and optimize them, and provides safety on the field. Moreover, it addresses labor shortage, lowers field costs, and boost agricultural productivity. Recently, John Deere acquired Bear Flag Robotics for $250M in August 2021.

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