Winter lettuce growers learned about automated lettuce thinners on the market, or near market introduction, during a lettuce thinning workshop at the Southwest Ag Summit held in Yuma, Ariz. in March.

Companies touting their machines included Vision Robotics of San Diego, Calif.; Blue River Technology of Mountain View, Calif.; Agmechtronix, Silver Springs, N.M.; Oraka Developments; and the University of Arizona.

Here is some basic information on each machine or concept.

Vision Robotics Corporation- San Diego, Calif. Information from Tony Koselka: tractor pulls machine; fertilizer kills unwanted plants; planned to deliver two machines in April; works well at 1.5 miles per hour; plans to increase speed and efficiency.

Blue River Technology- Sunnyvale, Calif. - Matthew Rossow - company had experimental prototype and hoped to deliver commercial unit in April; to develop proprietary algorithms to process data for easier interaction; kill step ingredient is fertilizer.

Oraka Developments LTD– Mike Schwarz and Ryan Crossley – self propelled machine thins lettuce at 2 to 2.5 miles per hour; improving computer software is priority; kill step ingredient is proprietary; machine operates on tires or tracks.

Agmechtronix– Silver City, N.M. – Ryan Herbon – Tractor pulled; optimal speed is 3 mph; kill ingredient up to the grower; spray system includes off-the-shelf components to minimize downtime; machine has Internet and cell phone connectivity; sold two machines.

UA automated lettuce thinner, Yuma – Mark Siemens – tractor pulled; upgrading the prototype; kill product decided by grower; thins at four acres per hour; also exploring automated weeding.