What is in this article?:
- U.S. lettuce growers are excited about crop production-changing technology now available which could revolutionize the vegetable industry.
- The first generation of commercial automated lettuce thinning machines are now thinning green lettuces in California and Arizona.
Handful of machines
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.