Written in collaboration with Ouster
Labor shortages are being felt all over the world over. From the Central Valley of California to the heart of Australia, farmers are struggling to fill tens of thousands of jobs. Despite rapidly increasing wages and renewed efforts to encourage worker immigration, farmers are still leaving acres of fruit to rot for the first time in their lives. Post-harvest this winter, instead of taking a well-deserved break, planning for next year’s crop will have a new sense of urgency as they compete with recruitment and attempt to anticipate how much crop can ultimately be managed. These hard decisions will ultimately affect everyone when they result in food shortages and price hikes that are increasingly difficult to anticipate.
As farmers sit down to holiday meals with a heavier load to bear regarding planning, consumers are already feeling a combination of effects that have led to an increased cost of food more than 5% higher than the same time last year in the United States. While food insecurity in the U.S. was unchanged (at 10.5 percent of households) from 2019 to 2020, it marks the first year without a decline since the elevated years following the 2008 recession. And, worldwide, the number of those that go hungry is only increasing. Nearly one in ten people in the world are exposed to severe levels of food insecurity, and a global pandemic has only highlighted the weaknesses in our global food systems. We need to transform them, and Blue White Robotics seeks to do just that by lowering the cost of nutritious foods and scaling up climate resilience.
Blue White Robotics
Blue White Robotics is driven to solve these challenges that humans face – food scarcity, and labor shortages – by building a life-long solution for the modern farmer. They have created the safest, most reliable, and productive solution for the autonomous farm. Their solution is a vehicle-agnostic kit of sensors that can be added to tractors already in the field. The platform itself consists of cameras, GPS, and an Ouster OS1 LiDAR sensor. Integrating the solution is very intuitive. Simply mount a few brackets to hold the sensor suite and compute modules. Once installed, a tractor is capable of driving itself and performing tasks autonomously without the need for human interaction. Added autonomy is only one part of the solution. Operators need to be able to efficiently track and manage their fleet. As the tractor is navigating the farm, information is sent to a management platform that allows one operator to manage an entire fleet of autonomous tractors. Remotely managing the fleet not only alleviates the impact of labor shortages but also creates a farm with a much safer operation.
At the core of the platform is a robust sensor suite, relying on Ouster’s digital LiDAR, that feeds ever-improving algorithms and artificial intelligence. Whether talking about ease of adoption, adapting to current infrastructure, or financial viability, accessibility is in mind. With the Blue White Robotics solution, productivity increases from day one, and the cost of the platform is directly related to how much it is used and, therefore, how much each client produces.
The Ouster Difference
Durability is of utmost importance when it comes to agriculture operations. The environment subjects equipment to plumes of dust, shock & vibration, as well as temperature swings. Blue White Robotics was able to leverage Ouster’s digital architecture and industry-leading reliability to bring a robust platform to the market. As seen in the picture above, the OS1 is mounted on the front of the kit and is able to withstand the day-to-day abuse the field brings while delivering a high-resolution precise point cloud of the environment. The video below shows OS1’s output from Blue White’s perception stack.
More to come from Blue White Robotics
This is just the beginning for Blue White Robotics. While automating existing tractors in the field will help, it is far from enough to alleviate the challenges farmers face. Blue White plans to expand the use of its platform and software management tool to solve challenges in other aspects of the farm. Ouster is very excited to work with Blue White Robotics and to help shape the future of agriculture.