USDA to Offer $3 Million in Grants to Fund Robotics Research
WASHINGTON D.C. - The USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is making $3 million in grants available to advance the use of robotic technology in American agriculture. The four grants are part of the National Robotics Initiative (NRI), a federal research partnership that includes the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Department of Defense.
“We are on the cusp of seeing incredible advancement in the use of robotics and sensors supporting agriculture in this country,” said Sonny Ramaswamy, NIFA Director. “These technologies, which are components of the ‘internet of agricultural things,’ have the ability to make agriculture production more efficient, saving time and money – benefits that can be passed from producers to consumers.”
Some of NIFA's FY 2014 awards went to:
- Georgia Tech: $900,498
- University of Illinois: $532,607
- Carnegie Mellon University: $556,726
- Washington State University: $1,010,169
The National Robotics Initiative is geared towards creating the next generation of robots sophisticated enough to work alongside or in conjunction with human workers. The National Institutes of Food and Agriculture's role in this mission is creating new technologies which enhance food production, processing, and distribution that benefit consumers and rural communities. According to a press release, examples of these technologies include:
- Automated systems for inspection, sorting, processing, or handling products in post-harvest, processing or product distribution settings.
- Improved robotics for inspection, sorting, and handling of plants and flowers in greenhouses and nurseries.
- Multi-modal and rapid sensing systems for detecting microbial contamination, defects, ripeness, physical damage, size, shape, and other quality attributes or for monitoring air or water quality.
Personally, I am excited to see what this next generation of robotics could have in store and how this technology could impact the the produce industry moving into the future. Be sure to stay tuned for more updates on the industry's latest tech innovations.