A Duluth Grad and Ag Tech

Pete Collins, Agronomy Sales, Stewartville (507) 259-7439

My son graduated in December from the University of Minnesota Duluth with a Mechanical Engineering degree. Yes, it was a very happy day for many reasons. First, what parent isn’t proud to see their son or daughter accomplish earning a degree from any University let alone an Engineering degree. Second, it marks the beginning of his future and all that life can hold for him. Third, IT MARKS A PAY RAISE FOR OLD DAD. Now he can pay is own bills…

For his senior design project he and his team/teams had to build an autonomous machine for the Air Force that could carry gear and supplies for soldiers in remote locations in a wide variety of settings and terrain. They ended up using the front ends of two atv’s and joining them together so it could have 4 wheel steering capabilities. It was designed to run on 2 Tesla car batteries with a diesel motor for recharging the system. If the batteries failed, they could use the diesel motor to power the unit. It was designed to be able to operate remotely with either a hand-held controller or be set to follow you wherever you went with just a sensor you would carry with you. Pretty incredible to think that my son was capable of building something like this. He was part of 5 teams from mechanical to electrical engineers that worked on this. This marks the first time this many teams worked on a project of this magnitude at Duluth. And yes, he vented frequently about some of the other team members but ultimately they got it done.

The project was to be a competition with other Universities across the U.S. and I just found out they won first place. Here is my son with his project and award.


This got me to thinking about all the innovations happening in the Ag sector these days. We have robotic milkers, robots that can roam poultry buildings checking for sick chickens/turkeys by sensing their temperatures, auto-steer in almost everything, smart phone apps to monitor and control a wide variety of things, drones to monitor crop fields, and these are just to name a few.

According to AgFunder, an online marketplace tracking the Ag technology sector, investors have poured more than $10 BILLION into ag tech since 2014 and $3.2 BILLION in 2016 alone. Wow. That’s hard for me comprehend that much money. There are new innovations being developed right now for robotic apple pickers and a spraying system that can differentiate between weeds and crops to spray only weeds as it goes across the fields. It says it may be able to use 90% less chemical. It uses “facial recognition” to differentiate between the weeds and the crop and only “paint” or apply chemical to the weeds. That’s incredible!

What next, a space ship that will hover over your field and use lasers or static electricity to destroy weeds in your crop 24hrs a day???? Maybe it’s not far-fetched!

It will be very interesting to see what our next generation of innovators and engineers will come up with.

I am actually looking forward to it. Maybe it will be your son, daughter, grandson or granddaughter that will come up some of these things.

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