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"Rowbots" Fertilize Corn And Seed Corn Crops
Networked robots may someday be running down your fields, precisely side dressing liquid nitrogen or seeding cover crops into corn.
  That’s the vision of Rowbot Systems, a Minneapolis, Minn., company that recently introduced the Rowbot, a remote self-controlled, 4-WD machine that features an articulating chassis and a mast with a high-end GPS tracker to keep the robot on course. It’s powered by a diesel engine and uses hydraulic motors to drive the wheels.
  The unit is designed to fit between 30-in. corn rows and can carry about 40 gal. of liquid nitrogen. It’s equipped with 4 spray nozzles on back set at different angles so it can spray 4 rows at a time. An electric pump directs the spray at the base of the plant.
  “The Rowbot is still in the development stage, but we think it has a lot of potential. We’ve already demonstrated it in 4 states,” says co-founder Kent Cavender-Bares. “The machine isn’t able to turn around at the end of the field on its own yet, or automatically refill itself, but that will come with more work and money.”
  “The idea is to precisely add fertilizer as the crop is growing, so you can add nutrients right when and where the corn needs it,” says his brother Charlie Bares, also a co-founder of the company and a dairy farmer. “Instead of using one big piece of machinery, you’ll use multiple robots that can run 24 hours a day. They’ll be able to apply fertilizer multiple times during the growing season.”
  Both men say that eventually the Rowbot will be able to do other jobs, too. “For example, last year we successfully demonstrated the unit equipped with a small ATV seeder on front. We think it will work great for seeding cover crops into corn in late August, when the corn is too tall even for high clearance machines,” says Charlie.
  Kent says the company is focused on using the Rowbot solely on corn for now. However, they intend to expand the capabilities of the robot to seeding and applying herbicides and pesticides.
  The company plans on marketing the Rowbot as early as next summer. “Our goal is to have a small fleet of 5 or more Rowbots as soon as next summer. We’ll offer farmers and co-ops fertilization packages and use our own technicians to control the machines. At the end of the day the farmer will end up with a map showing where fertilizer was applied and the application rates,” notes Kent.
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Rowbot LLC, 400 S. 4th Street, no. 401-210, Minneapolis, Minn. 55415 (ph 651 324-8666; kbares@rowbot.com; www.rowbot.com).

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2014 - Volume #38, Issue #1