Alphabet’s latest moonshot is a field-roving, plant-inspecting robo-buggy

Alphabet (you know… Google) has taken the wraps off the latest “moonshot” from its X labs: A robotic buggy that cruises over crops, inspecting each plant individually and, perhaps, generating the kind of “big data” that agriculture needs to keep up with the demands of a hungry world.

Mineral is the name of the project, and there’s no hidden meaning there. The team just thinks minerals are really important to agriculture.

Announced with little fanfare in a blog post and site, Mineral is still very much in the experimental phase. It was born when the team saw that efforts to digitize agriculture had not found as much success as expected at a time when sustainable food production is growing in importance every year.

“These new streams of data are either overwhelming or don’t measure up to the complexity of agriculture, so they defer back to things like tradition, instinct or

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Alphabet’s latest X project is a crop-sniffing plant buggy

Alphabet’s X lab, the former Google division that launched the Waymo self-driving car unit and other ambitious projects, has officially announced its latest “moonshot”: a computational agriculture project the company is calling Mineral.



a field of grass


© Photo: Alphabet


The project is focused on sustainable food production and farming at large scales, with a focus on “developing and testing a range of software and hardware prototypes based on breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, simulation, sensors, robotics and more,” according to project lead Elliott Grant.

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A blog post outlining the project’s vision says Mineral, which now has an official name but may have launched in secret around 2017 according to Grant’s LinkedIn page, will try and aim technology toward solving issues around sustainability. Those include feeding of Earth’s growing population, and producing crops more efficiently by understanding growth cycles and weather patterns. The project will also hope to manage land and plant life

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