Breaking Ground in Agriculture: FIRA Continues to Drive a Robotics Revolution!


Brian Mellea

The future of farming just got a boost at the fall 2023 FIRA USA event! It was a showcase of cutting-edge technology, where the fields themselves came alive with the hum of machinery and the staged orchards and vineyards were filled with innovation. As the exhibit organizers stated, “We have three and a half acres of veg demo. We have an acre of vineyard demo. And we have a half-acre of tree demo for orchards. You can see demos every day for hours at FIRA USA 2023 in Salinas by design”.

The Field, Orchard, and Vineyard showcase

Nestled inside the Salinas Sports Complex, FIRA launched its second US showcase with 25 robotic demos that had spectators lining the fences. Smart sprayers, weeders, pickers, precision mowers, and a group of collaborative robots appeared in the rodeo grounds, showing an unprecedented level of sophistication and prowess.

The show floor was a mix of international robots, with vendors hailing from as far afield as the Netherlands, France, and Italy, flaunting their weeders and sprayers, giving a global flavor to the event. FIRA, a global forum dedicated to showcasing and advancing agricultural robotics, meets the need with three conferences – two in the U.S. and one in Europe, that enable growers and equipment suppliers a direct look at what’s around the corner. But it had a local flavor as well: the CA Strawberry Commission was encouraging robotic development for strawberries with many sessions, attendees, and vendors highlighting how automation can support that industry.

FarmX stood out by showcasing our industry-leading, patented Perceptive NavigationTM Autonomy Kits installed on three vehicles – a Kubota tractor, a drone, and a rover built by industry partner, farm-ng. Our display saw heavy traffic, with curious crowds excited to learn more about the uniqueness of our Perceptive NavigationTM solution.

With the ability to navigate precisely without relying on GPS, autonomous vehicles equipped with FarmX’s technology are poised to make a significant impact on the agriculture industry. The farming industry has come to expect GPS-based tracking on autonomous vehicles. They also groan at the short-comings of GPS, especially under orchard canopies, on hillsides, and across isolated and remote fields. Because FarmX automation software works on the basis of “what it sees just as a person sees,” it never suffers these shortcomings.

FarmX is the only exhibitor who has autonomous software designed to be installed on existing vehicles and requiring no GPS, waypoints, base stations, or pre-mapping.

And what’s a robotics fiesta without the usual suspects? Agtonomy, Monarch, PlantTape, Burro, and Gussshowed off their fleet of vehicles, turning the event into a display of autonomous prowess. Our friends at farm-ng, undeniably the show’s rockstar, took things up a notch with a dozen vehicles on display, many loaded with implements.

But wait, where were the robotic pickers? It turns out, in the Golden State, apples and pears aren’t the behemoth crops that need the robotic picking revolution quite yet.

The Road to Perfection

Let’s not sugarcoat it: not all demos were flawless. Some vehicles needed a gentle nudge to get started or help to gracefully turn into the next row. However, FarmX’s Perceptive NavigationTM offers the polish to make their performance flawless, poised to overcome these minor hiccups and lead the move toward true autonomy in agriculture.

Real World Application – the Need for a Holistic Approach

Growers weren’t just interested in single robot management; they had their eyes on fleet management, realizing the real labor savings kick in when a single worker can oversee multiple autonomous vehicles from a single interface.

FarmX compliments its Perceptive Navigation software with its Mission Control software. This software serves as a single platform to manage the entire operation – autonomous vehicles, irrigation, and field monitoring and insights. We stand ready to help growers easily run and organize robotic farm operations and achieve the labor savings they need to maintain and improve profitability.

In the end, FIRA Salinas 2023 was nothing short of waystation along a continuum shifting into a world of autonomous agriculture. FarmX plans to join FIRA USA 2024 which is to be held in the Sacramento area.

Want to learn more about FarmX’s Perceptive NavigationTM technology or our complete “mission control” software?

Or watch our video which summarizes our solution:

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