University of Nebraska professor says robots might have biggest impact on small farms

A University of Nebraska professor says investments in ag robots could be more economical for small farmers.

Santosh Pitla tells Brownfield it can be more challenging for small farmers to invest in large equipment technology. “If you want a high-tech tractor, I think big producers are the ones who will be able to afford it,” he says. “If you can create a scale-neutral position, it can be beneficial for producers across the entire spectrum.”

He says they use a four-wheel drive, 60 horsepower machine for research and that’s what would be used on farms. “We want farmers with 200 acres to use them but also farmers with 10,000 acres to use them. The difference is the number of units,” he says. “A farmer with a really large farm will use maybe 20 of the machines but a small producer may only use two or three of these machines.”

Video is courtesy of University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Assoc. Prof. Santosh Pitla

Pitla says their goal is to make robots fully autonomous. “We want to see like 10 of these machines working together as a team but that’s where more research needs to be done. That’s one of the big challenges that we’re trying to solve,” Pitla says.

He says for their machine, an operator needs a computer and must be in the field to run it.

He says his department received nearly a $500,000 grant from USDA-NIFA to advance their research.

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