NextGen Expo, agBOT Challenge to Begin

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(photo courtesy of Purdue University) (photo courtesy of Purdue University)

The Purdue University College of Agriculture and Gerrish Farms in Rockville will Thursday kick off a three-day event to showcase high-tech innovations in agriculture. The NextGen Expo and agBOT Challenge 2019 will both take place at the Agronomy Center for Research and Education on the West Lafayette campus.

The NextGen Expo is an interactive STEM fair that will take place Thursday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and will feature interactive exhibits covering industry, farm management, robotics, crop production, and rural broadband, among a number of other topics. Rachel Gerrish, senior executive producer of the event, says one of the goals is to showcase the need for broadband to enhance agriculture, education and healthcare in rural areas.

The agBOT Challenge will be open to the public Friday and Saturday. It is an international competition featuring teams from high schools, universities and industries that have created autonomous robots capable of performing agricultural tasks.

In its fifth year, the competition will see the teams on Friday showcasing their crop management robots that can navigate rows of corn, identify plans, deliver fertilizer, eradicate weeds, and provide real-time observation. Saturday, the teams' robots will gather soil samples and prepare them for diagnostic evaluation.

This year's competition will include teams from Virginia Tech, Colorado School of Mines, the University of Manitoba, Michigan State University, IUPUI, Purdue Agricultural and Biological Engineering, Indiana State University, as well as entrepreneurs from Indiana, South Carolina, Texas, Canada and Egypt.

"Both events offer a glimpse into the future of how unmanned vehicles and other technologies will impact agriculture and society at large," said Ronald Turco, head of Purdue’s Department of Agronomy. "These tools are almost certainly going to be critical to help farmers produce the food that will be required to feed a growing global population, and they also show what is possible with high-speed broadband."

The agBOT Challenge was founded by Gerrish Farms owner Steve Gerrish and his daughter Rachel to raise awareness of the need for high-speed rural broadband, and also to encourage cross-collaborative research and development of new technologies for agriculture.

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