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Lalitha Vish  |  Jellicles Farm  |  Sunol , CA

Subject: Agriculture and Robots Roundtable, Fall 2017

Dear Farmers! I am a small acreage urban farmer in the Bay Area, CA. I started in 2012 as a green newbie and have learnt so much along the way. Within the first year, I realised some things: 1. economies of scale dont work for small operations 2. labour will always be an issue 3. technology, unless created WITH farmers will be destructive to soil and bottomline. (example: pesticides, john deere with its dmca issue etc)

So I started working on a robotic autonomous platform that can do *some* tasks but not all. Along the way, I realised that $$$ is a big issue and that the tech sector with brighter minds is working on it. I paused my work for one year and started networking in Silicon Valley. I think its time to introduce farmers to Silicon Valley to start a dialogue.

It will take place in the Bay Area, but if anyone in the Farmsreach community wants to attend but is unable, please comment here or send me your questions/thoughts/comments. If you can attend, please send me a message. There will be more of these roundtables in the coming months. We are hoping to have investors, roboticists, engineers, startups, academia journalists and attorneys. Farmers, ranchers, vineyards, orchards and conservationists will also be represented.

Event details below:

Dear All,

With collaborators, Andra Keay of Silicon Valley Robotics (http://www.svrobo.org) and Joanne Pranksy of Robot MD(http://www.robot.md) , I have organized a series of Farm Roundtable Dinners for industry players to meet farmers to discuss and deliberate farm robotics and automation challenges with some good old future visioning thrown into the agenda.


This specially organized Roundtable Dinner will explore the agricultural robotics industry, particularly the need for practical automation in small acreage and single operator farms; how to bridge the gap between the robot manufacturers and the small farmer; as well as identify some of the current and future automation challenges facing the Northern California agricultural industry.

You are invited to join 11 other industry pundits for a two-hour bountiful feast of food, breaking bread, and strategic discussion, the results of which will be documented in a report.


Date: Sept 9, 2017(it's a Saturday!)

Location: Jellicles Farm(505, Paloma way, Sunol, CA)

Time: TBD(we are polling! As it's only 12 people!)


Please join us!


Regards,


Lalitha.(Farmer, Jellicles Farm)


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Comments 9
08/24/17
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  |  Jellicles Farm  |  Sunol , CA commented

dear friends, the roundtable event is on september 9, 2017. we have started sending the invitations out. there will be four of these roundtables in 2017.

we are trying to get a diverse distribution of farmers: we are looking for 1. orchardists 2. row crop farmers 3. soil less agricultural farmers 4. community garden/raised bed farmers 5. nursery/greenhouse operators 6. vineyard operators.

ideally, i would like a mix so the tech folks can have an idea of the varied functions that can be automated. having 6 row cropping farmers wouldnt be ideal altho' i am pretty sure that would make a good discussion just by itself. PLEASE INDICATE the kind of farming operation you would like to do some future robotic visioning for...and of course, your email address. it's by invitation only and RSVP is by eventbrite.

Unfortunately, invitations for sept roundtable is limited due to parking space restrictions at my

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09/04/17 12:46 AM
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  |  Jellicles Farm  |  Sunol , CA commented

thank you, Stephen. And thanks, bill!

This is the kind of dialogue we need because there is a chasm between sci fi and Silicon Valley and a smaller one between Silicon Valley and real farmers.

i farm and my initial designs/ideas for automated systems were def out of science fiction! It was a learning curve to adjust to real needs and in the farm hands on experience. I feel like if we farmers don't communicate with tech folks, there won't be a fulfillment of real needs. Bigger farms have entire departments who will do it(as paul pointed out). But where does that leave us..med sized speciality crop producers? Hope the dialogue becomes a noisy chatter till we are heard!

08/25/17 11:57 AM
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  |  High Ground Organics  |  Watsonville, CA commented

Hi Bill,

You seem much more in touch with reality than many of the Silicon Valley folks I have met, and I have no doubt that you are correct about opportunities to improve farm productivity, but when I hear about ideas like fully autonomous irrigation systems it really points out to me the difficulties in making theories like this work on the farm level.

Although the idea of having my farm irrigate itself while I am lounging on the beach sounds great, in reality, I have never found an irrigation system that I would feel safe leaving unattended. Every time we irrigate our strawberries or squash or any crop we do on drip, we have to make the rounds repairing damage done by rodents, over-eager weeding crews or even insects (Jerusalem crickets). And when it comes to overhead/sprinkler irrigation, that's another matter entirely. No matter how carefully they are assembled, the aluminum hook and latch pipes

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08/25/17 10:02 AM
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  |  Ayrstone Productivity  |  San Jose, CA commented

I'm one of those Silicon Valley vendors - I run Ayrstone Productivity, and we are making WiFi networks to cover whole farms. The idea is to get wireless networks across the farm (and not have to depend on cellular carriers, etc.) so you can then build out whatever automation YOU choose as YOU choose to do it. Our idea is scalable (you buy as many or as few pieces as you need to cover your farm) and based on standard protocols (WiFi, Ethernet, IP) so you're not "locked in" to a vendor. You can use it just to save data charges on your cellphone and tablet, you can set up IP cameras to keep an eye on things, and you can use little IoT devices (smart home stuff, industrial automation stuff, even "hobbyist" bits like Arduino) to keep tabs on things happening on the farm and control machinery. Think small at first - use a WiFi-controlled relay to turn a pump on and off to keep a tank full, or keep track of the

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08/24/17 4:48 PM
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  |  Terra Firma Farm  |  Winters, CA commented

I wonder if the Silicon Valley folks working on this know that several existing farm equipment manufacturers are already working on robotics and have several prototypes already working? Among them are robot tractors (Case International sold the first ones this year), robotic weeders for lettuce and other vegetables (already on the market), a robot strawberry harvester (prototype being used this season in Florida), and fully automated transplanters.

On the other end of the market, there is a garden weeding robot along the lines of the Roomba that promises to ship next year.

Not to be a pessimist, but it seems like most of the success in robotics will either be for very large farms or for homeowners/consumers. I would humbly suggest that the most likely overlap with small farmers would be the latter and that mass markets would also help gain the interest of capital as well as providing efficiencies of

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08/24/17 1:17 PM, updated
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  |  Jellicles Farm  |  Sunol , CA commented

To Paul Underhill: Right. That's why I am organizing this.

If you are happy with your current operations and don't need tech to make small farming better, that's a valid opinion too. Let me know if you would like to join the discussion. If you can't make it, I will convey your thoughts. That's the whole point of this roundtable. To get dialogue started.

08/24/17 12:57 PM
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  |  Gaia Community Gardens  |  El Cerrito, CA commented

What a great idea! I want to come.

08/24/17 11:37 AM
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  |  Jellicles Farm  |  Sunol , CA commented

jelliclesinc at gmail dot com

08/24/17 11:26 AM
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  |  West Valley College  |  Davis, CA commented

Dear Lalitha,

Great initiative! I would love to join this roundtable. I agree that being Silicon Valley needs to interact more with the ag-industry. I will pass this information along to my contacts in San Benito and Santa Cruz. Would you send me your email, please?:)

08/24/17 9:02 AM

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