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Overview

The Illinois Autonomous Farm unites researchers, industry leaders, educators, and stakeholders to drive research, education, and outreach for autonomous systems in agriculture across Illinois. Launched in 2020 as a joint effort between the Illinois Center for Digital Agriculture and the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering (ABE), the Autonomous Farm is a shared testbed facility to advance artificial intelligence research for agriculture in four key areas:

  1. Under canopy, high-throughput field phenotyping with compact robots and sensors
  2. Under canopy commodity crop weeding and spraying robots and soil sensor networks
  3. Urban food gardening with rail mounted and low-cost mobile robots
  4. Plant manipulation in berry and nut orchards with low-cost mobile robots and soft manipulators

This testbed will drive key research, education, and outreach activities designed to improve farmer productivity, sustainability, and profitability, as well as accelerate new opportunities in high-tech agriculture. Leveraging the testbed, the Autonomous Farm team will also assess issues involving the human impact of utilizing AI in agriculture, including safety, retraining, and job creation.

The pilot farm currently spans an area of approximately four acres located on the ABE farm site. This location will allow the autonomous farm to expand its acreage as future projects demand.

To achieve our goals, we are working with the Illinois Center for Autonomy, John Deere, EarthSense, Microsoft and other industry partners. These partners have provided us with significant donations of sensors, robots, and resources, including Farmbeats sensor hubs and cloud support from Microsoft, and robots from EarthSense.