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Big Iron Farm Show demonstration will show the potential of artificial intelligence and robotics in ag

Dr. Rex Sun and his team from North Dakota State University will have a "weedbot" that operates by remote control and seeks out weeds for site specific weed management will be one demonstration at the 2022 Big Iron Farm Show.

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A driverless tractor pulling a grain cart moves 15 mph to catch up to its man-driven combine partner. It slows down to 4 mph and then ‘syncs’ with the combine to allow on-the-go unloading, and direction to an unloading point. The tractor/cart is guided by Raven Industries’ new OMNiDRIVE system, which will be demonstrated at the 2022 Big Iron Farm Show, Sept. 13-15 in West Fargo, North Dakota. Photo taken Sept. 14, 2021, at the Red River Valley Fairgrounds in West Fargo, North Dakota.
Mikkel Pates / Agweek file photo
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WEST FARGO, N.D. — If a farmer didn't have to spray his entire field but could instead target weeds at their earliest stage and stop infestations before they start, the cost savings could be immense. Plus, consumers increasingly want less herbicides and other chemical applications applied to food crops, and agriculture continues to strive to be more environmentally friendly.

Dr. Rex Sun, an assistant professor in the department of Agriculture and Biosystems Engineering at North Dakota State University, and his team will have a new technology on display at the 2022 Big Iron Farm Show, Sept. 13-15 in West Fargo, that they think will accomplish those goals — a remote control "weedbot" that uses artificial intelligence and robotics to perform site specific weed management.

The daily demonstrations at 1 p.m. will involve bringing real weeds from an NDSU greenhouse and showing how the robot identifies and eliminates them.

"Right now, the farmers are spraying weeds on the whole field, but we don't want to do that," Sun said. "So hopefully by using our precision agriculture technologies like robotics and AI, they can use this robot and identify the early stage and make that solution right on the spot so we don't have to spray the whole field."

The robot is in proof-of-concept stage, and there are improvements left to be made, Sun said, noting that a robot that uses mechanical means to eliminate weeds or systems that look for pests and disease are possible, too.

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"This kind of platform, it can customize depending on what kind of applications the farming industry needs," he said.

While the robot is not autonomous, that is another possibility down the road, he said.

John Nowatzki, a retired agricultural machine systems specialist at NDSU who serves on the Big Iron Committee, said another demonstration will be a repeat from last year, with Titan Machinery and Raven Industries showing off their autonomous grain cart technologies . The demonstration will be west of the food court this year, because the space south of the racetrack used in the past is now a corn maze.

Hundreds of vendors also will be on hand at Big Iron, and many are preparing to show off new products or explain popular existing ones.

Nick Chiodo, marketing manager at Crary Industries, said Crary will have their Wind System on display for those who haven't seen it and experts to explain it. The system is an attachment for a soybean header that reduces shatter loss and feeds the combine more evenly through the blowing of high velocity air. Chiodo said the system can increase bushels per acres by as much as 5, with configurations that fit on most brand-name headers.

"Anywhere that grows soybeans, we're probably out there," he said.

They'll also have information and experts on their Revolution Ditcher, for use in cleaning out water ways, ditches or terraces. Chiodo said they'll have the "latest and greatest" on that in their booth.

Crary is planning a Dec. 15 event called Full Pod, which will feature famous farm YouTubers. For the cost of their ticket, attendees at that event will get dinner, a hooded sweatshirt, a grab bag and a chance to win door prizes, as well as opportunities to interact with the YouTubers and other farmers. Chiodo said anyone who has registered for the event can show their ticket at the booth and be entered to win a Grizzly cooler with the Full Pod log.

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Big Iron is a must for Crary, Chiodo said. Crary is located close at hand to the fairgrounds.

"It's right across the street from us," he said. "It's our backyard."

Jenny Schlecht is the editor of Agweek and Sugarbeet Grower Magazine. She lives on a farm and ranch near Medina, North Dakota, with her husband and two daughters. You can reach her at jschlecht@agweek.com or 701-595-0425.
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