Search This Blog

Thursday, February 07, 2013

As Long As We're Talking About Lettuce...

I might as well post about some recent handiwork by my company (Vision Robotics Corp.), a robotic lettuce thinner...

When growers plant lettuce, they plant a lettuce seed every 2 to 3 inches.  Ultimately, they want a lettuce plant every 10 to 12 inches.  The reason for the over planting is that many of the lettuce seeds either don't come up at all, or don't survive the first couple of weeks.  However, they end up with too many plants and need to thin the survivors.  Except for our new, Robotic Thinner, the thinning is currently done by laborers with hoes.

Our Thinner uses cameras to detect the lettuce and decide which ones to keep.  It actuates sprayers which spray the lettuce plants to be removed with fertilizer. It turns out that fertilizer kills the plants it's sprayed on, then is absorbed into the soil and fertilizes the "keepers".  The Thinner is mounted on a tractor.  The Thinner uses the tractor's tanks and pump system and electrical power.

Here is a link to a 30 second youtube video of it in operation:
In the video, as the tractor goes by, you can see the thinner mounted to the back.  You can see the banding of the fertilizer.  The dark areas are where the fertilizer is sprayed to thin lettuce and the light bands are where the "keepers" are located.

The pictures below show the effects of thinning the lettuce.  In addition to costing about 1/3 as much as manual labor using hoes to thin, notice that the ground is undisturbed by the thinner which, according to the growers using the thinner, allows the "keepers" to be more consistent in size and health since their roots are undisturbed.  In addition, fewer weeds are able to get started in the unbroken ground.

In the "4 days after thinning" shot, if you look closely, you can see little brown dead lettuces that have been thinned by fertilizer in between the remaining green keepers.  In the "4-5 weeks old" shot, the lettuce has been cultivated (weeded) so at this point the ground is disturbed but the lettuce is way ahead of any possible future weeds.

Each Thinner takes the place of roughly 30 to 50 people with hoes.  The world (well, North America) only needs about 150 Robotic Thinners to thin all of the lettuce so it's a pretty small market.  That will displace about 5,000 laborers, but it's really terrible work and the growers are having trouble getting people to do it anymore.

It's been a fun project.  I know a LOT about growing and processing lettuce now.


Harry Eagar said...

Very interesting. you have run into the difficulty of the researchers my wife once worked for. they wanted tropical farmers to inoculate seeds of legumes.

The total demand for, eg, Thailand was 4.

Since this outfit (NifTAL) was publicly-funded, that could have been ignored, except that the rightwingers pulled all their funding.

erp said...

Fantastic Bret.

American ingenuity ain't dead.

BTW - you don't say whether this project was publicly funded or funded by rightwingers -- apparently the only two ways anything gets done anymore.


Bret said...

Not publicly funded. Funded by a couple of lettuce growers. I'm not totally sure of their politics but my guess is that they're moderately liberal for growers, but still fairly conservative.

erp said...

... so what you're saying is that them's what wanted a product, paid for it out of their own funds.

No taxpayers, no rightwingers and even more important no meddlers from the guvmint.

Ya thank that concept will ever catch on?

Bret said...

No, not for much longer.

As their taxes go up, they'll have less money to invest in this sort of thing so the only possible way for it to get done is with government funding.

erp said...

... only Obama's buds get funding. Somehow I don't think any lettuce growers are among that elite cohort.

Bret said...

That's how it works. He who has the might gets to decide what funding's right!

erp said...

In my country, we were all, including the occupant of the oval office, equal and only the law had the might.

Alas we gave that country up for free cell phones and EBT cards.

Bret said...

It wasn't given up, it was taken and that taking is inherent - as an entity gets wealthier, it's a target for looters.

Howard said...

Nice video and pictures. I only had the description before. Neat little bundle of technology.

erp said...

Bret, when I saw your comment last night, I was so stunned, I couldn't reply.

Nothing and nobody could have "taken" anything from us. Our strength was unassailable from the outside. It could only be whittled away from the inside and that whittling has been going on for at least 100 years.

We've been giving away our freedom for the equivalent of colored beads and fire-water or bread and circuses if you like that analogy better.

When Obama stole GM stockholders money and gave it to the unions, all of Harry's vaunted guardians of public policy, his regulators and overseers ... sat on their hands because Americans under about age 60 no matter how brilliant their intellects have been conditioned to accept that "fairness" as defined by the world socialist movement should and must be the goal of government.

I have feeling that even Soros was surprised at how easily we swallowed that bitter pill.

To quote Al Jolson: "You ain't seen nothing yet."

Susan's Husband said...

I agree entirely with erp here.

Bret said...


You'll have to explain a few details to me then.

1. When you wrote, "we gave that country up", who is the "we" that you're referring to. "We" has a solidly collectivist connotation, i.e. the collective "we". Not liking collectivism, I generally cringe when arguments are made about the collective "we". If the collective "we" in this case is the U.S. as a whole, then your statement seems odd to me: that "we" gave up something to "we" since, as you point out, "we" (the U.S.) wasn't invaded by a foreign entity and, as a whole, still controls its own destiny. Note that many of that "we" are quite happy that the country that was ruled by law with liberty for all was given up and transformed into the current State.

2. How did "we" "give" "that country up"? Forgetting about the "we" for now, "give" is an active verb. So what actions did you (as part of the "we") take to "give" the country up? Did you sign something, go to rallies for servitude, vote for those who "gave that country up" when there was someone else to vote for? I don't think I took any significant actions like that and I doubt you did either. So at best, "we" (as in you and I) were passive as the power and legal structures of the country changed. In other words, perhaps you and I stood by passively as the country was taken away, but you and I didn't actively "give" anything up at all.

Perhaps it's just that you have more affinity for your misguided fellow citizens than I do. In other words, you still consider yourself part of national "we" with them. I certainly don't. I have NO affinity for, sympathy with, or connection to those who take from me without me volunteering.

For example, if (say) Texas, split off from the country and I thought that they would be reasonably governed from a libertarian/conservative (but not overly religious) perspective (I'm supportive of religion but don't want it in my face all of the time), I'd be there in less than 24 hours and turn my back on the rest of "we" with absolutely no guilt and no looking back. If a foreign country offered that opportunity, I'd head there as well, but interestingly, everywhere else in the world is just as bad or worse. Thus I think that the loss of the rule of law and liberty is an inherently emergent phenomenon of the complex system that is civilization: wealth is created, looters take it away along with liberty.

Susan's Husband said...

"All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing"

I read erp as saying the rule of law was subverted internally by collectivists and we, as a nation, failed to oppose it and lost by default. I also read "we" the same way you might read "people" - not as an absolute, but a generality. I think "give" is a reasonable term to use even for such passive loss, hence the term "give up" as a synonym for "surrender".

Harry Eagar said...

I see erp has fallen for the free cellphone myth.

As I often do, I set a little landmine in my comment. When the rightwingers (Bush I administration) pulled funding from NifTAL (which was devoted to raising the productivity of the world's poorest farmers), it did not return it to the overfed American upper bracket taxpayer.

No, it diverted it to Russian agriculture.

erp said...

What set the U.S. aside from other countries is that the Law was sovereign, not the government.

Over the last 100 + years, We, the People, the same We, the People, I have always been proud to number myself. gave the government more and more sovereignty over the law (see example of GM above).

Although like all right-thinkers, I don't think of myself as a member of any particular tribe or club with special demands -- merely an individual who on the nonce hob-nobs with one group or other as required, e.g., PTA while kids were school.

We, the People gave it up when we allowed ourselves to be dazzled by the goodies offered by the left like Social Security and it's red-headed step-child Medicare both of which morphed into a myriad other hideous mutations so that now, you really have to try very hard not to belong to some needy group or other and allowed ourselves to feel good about taking from the "rich" to give to the “poor."

Most of We, the People who voted for these aberrations are victims of the public schools which since the end of WW2 have been in the vise-like control of the teachers' unions.

Lots more of this blather available, but you get the idea.

When I was younger, I always thought New Zealand might be a nice place to live, but then they went left faster than we did, so I didn't have that option either.

Texas may be an option for you youngsters. In fact, perhaps Texas can take over the rest of the southern U.S., Mexico and Central America and start all over again. It'll be easier this time, we have the blueprint our founding fathers left us, so we won't have to re-invent the wheel.

PS: I despise RINO’s more than any sniveling lefty. I only voted for three candidates since my first vote in 1958: Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan and W’s second term. All my other votes including the one for George McGovern were for the least worst candidate.

erp said...

Harry, I'm sorry that my ability to de-code leftwing cant isn't up to making head nor tails of your last comment.

Free cell phones a myth? Ever hear of Carlos Slim, one of Obama's favorite crony capitalists.

They're the siren song for the faithful to riot and perform urban unrest should there be pockets of resistance to the coming complete takeover of America immediately following the gutting of the military.

Your little pocket of paradise may be spared, but the rest of us won't be.

Bret said...

SH/aog wrote: "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing"

True. So what?

That particular platitude doesn't imply or support the concept that good men ought not do nothing. One would have to show that not doing nothing would have a positive effect and that would need to include a positive effect for those who are the doers of the something.

Sometimes evil shows up in concentrated and obvious forms. KristallNacht is an example. We can certainly debate whether or not good Germans should have attempted to stop that very obvious bit of great evil.

But the supposed evil we're discussing here (I say supposed because I'm not sure even a majority consider it to be evil) hasn't often showed its face with the obviousness of a Kristallnacht. It's been going on, mostly invisible, for hundreds of years, really since the founding of this country.

There's rarely been any events in the last 200 years within the U.S. where it made sense for good man to do something regarding the collectivism and concentration of power in the central government.

I assume you're a good man. What have you done to stem the tide that would've made sense? What might've you done differently that would've made sense? By making sense, I mean that the costs to you wouldn't have significantly outweighed the benefits.

Ultimately, those who didn't step forward and attempt to stop Kristallnacht probably ended up dying, their country destroyed, their family decimated, etc. But on that night, it didn't look like it would make sense to do anything, so they didn't. Being good doesn't mean being suicidal for possibly slight or no benefit.

I see an unrelenting, insidious, slow-moving, unstoppable, yet inherent and emergent characteristic of the collective that nothing can stop in the long run.

And yes, the good men will keep standing by and doing nothing.

Bret said...

erp wrote: "We, the People..."

You still buy into that, eh?

The federal government does not have my consent and rules me only by force against my will.

Until you and most everybody else realizes that you aren't part of the ruling class and have absolutely nothing to do with governing will there possibly be any sort of recovery from rampant collectivism.

Susan's Husband said...


Speaking out at all is doing something. Perhaps not enough, but better to light a single candle ...

I vote, I contribute to candidates I think are against creeping collectivism, I prepare myself and family for the day when the collectivists realize the OPM has run out.

I think the biggest things that has been the "giving up" has been the willingness of the anti-collectivists to concede points through politeness, when the collectivists operate under no such constraints. Far too many good people have been fooled twice, so to speak. It's the primary reason I attack Old Media as much as I can, to strip its aura of reasonableness and objectivity, so the good people can judge it as it is.

erp said...

Bret, that is how it is now, but at one time, we had an informed citizenry which our forefathers knew was the most important factor in the success of the Republic.

That hasn't been the case for almost 50 years now and the citizenry is worse than un-informed, it is deliberately mis-informed.

Like SH above, I have too spoken up at meetings, written letters to the editor which have caused some uproar and been jeered and called names, mostly nazi, which I find quite amusing, but haven't had much luck changing minds and hearts, but then I have no shiny objects to offer, only a plea that we not toss our freedom away, but you know what? -- they're not interested in freedom, only in sticking it to the rich fat cats aka Republicans in Wall St, vile corporations, oil and drug companies. Oh, and saving polar bears by the stopping said entities from causing global warming in their greedy zeal for profit.

Susan's Husband said...

Here is an example -- despite her four years of failure, and her indifference to the deaths in Benghazi and getting revenge on an uninvolved film maker and not the actual killers, voters still approve of her. How can that be? That's giving up on any standards of accountability and after that there is no rule of law.

erp said...

Worse than that SH.

Conservative women I know whose intelligence appears to be in the normal range, say they'll vote for Hillary because having a female president is more important than politics!!!!!

Sorry I won't be around to remind them of that when they're wearing burkhas.

Susan's Husband said...


A very similar take to ours with more examples.

erp said...

I've often wondered if Elizabeth Scalia is related to Justice Scalia. She is, of course, right, especially about the nuns. When one nun had emergency surgery, we had her class and our class in the same room. We all sat two to a seat and a pin could be heard dropping at any time during the day.

We ALL learned algebra as well English grammar, history, geography (I still remember the geography book and would give a pretty penny for a copy) and memorized poems, "Under the spreading chestnut tree ...". 70 years later I can still remember some of the lines.

At the time, I vowed to see all the places depicted in the geography book and kept that vow with the exception of the Taj Mahal.

It's obvious that teaching children isn't the object of the public schools because well informed citizens don't fall for nonsensical scams and don't sit still for the kind regimentation that's all too common now.

Harry Eagar said...

I remember Catholic geography class, too.

I learned, among much else that I later learned was false, that because of Communism, Polish coal miners could eat nothing better than bread with dripping.

Catholic schools create -- and exist only to create -- ignorant people.

erp said...

Harry, Who you calling ignorant?

I challenge you to a duel, your choice of weapons even including obscure references known only to scholars of left-wing propaganda -- and I'll even ala Limbaugh, tie half my brain behind my back. :-)

Harry Eagar said...

Well, I know that Carlos Slim is a Mexican. Not sure how he qualifies as an Obama crony capitalist, though.

I know the Obamaphone hoax is a hoax.

erp said...

Obana Phones 1

Obana Phones 2

To quote SH/AOG, where are your links?

erp said...


Obana Phones 1

Susan's Husband said...

Is that claim that Carlos Slim is not a crony capitalists, or not an Obama backer?

Howard said...

Wow Harry, it seems like you got off pretty easy. Nowadays there are many secular schools teaching that all the woes of mankind are the fault of western civilization, America and capitalism. Now that is some big-time propaganda, far more potent than anything you were taught for producing colossal ignorance.

Incremental curative ,here.

erp said...

The WSJ to the rescue.

Susan's Husband said...

Heh. I was going to link that.

erp said...

So it's true great minds do think alike!

Harry Eagar said...

Reaganphones, erp. The Lifeline Program began in 1984.

Harry Eagar said...

erp and Guy, do you ever get tired of being hoodwinked by the rightwing noise machine?

I tried to warn you the Obamaphone campaign was a hoax. I knew that as soon as I heard about it last year, since I had read about Lifeline in -- where else? -- my daily newspaper, and that was over 20 years ago.

You might wonder why I would recall a story so long. Well, I wrote it.

That it's a Reaganphone does make the joke richer.

Susan's Husband said...

Mr. Eagar, do you ever tire of blaming the "right wing noise machine" instead of providing actual facts and evidence for your claims?

What is the hoax here? That this program exists? It does. That people (including recipients) refer to the result as "Obamaphones"? They do. What, exactly, is the hoax? How are either of those two facts changed by the President under which the program started?

P.S. Did you not even notice the cited WSJ article itself points out the 1984 start date? But I guess I shouldn't believe that now, since it must simply be me getting hoodwinked, right? And you must be part of the right wing noise machine as well, since you cite the exact same hoodwinking! Ah, the scales, they fall from my eyes.

Hey Skipper said...

[Harry:] I learned, among much else that I later learned was false, that because of Communism, Polish coal miners could eat nothing better than bread with dripping.

I had a chance both the Soviet Union and East Berlin. The latter was a hell hole, the former even worse.

Unfortunately, unlike your Catholic school education, I only had first hand knowledge to go on.

erp said...

The only hoax I see is that a wrong-headed Reagan-era program has been usurped and twisted, not to help the needy as it was designed to do, but to make Obama et al. crony capitalist, Carlos Slim, even richer.

The phones, millions of them, bought and paid for by us taxpayers, are being used to network urban terrorism.

Harry: When I left my geography book behind in 1948, there had as yet been no mention of Polish miners’ cuisine. I am intrigued. Can you expand on that please? What was the year? What were miners in other countries like those in Siberia, etc. eating?

erp said...

Harry said: I know the Obamaphone hoax is a hoax.

Just like everything else Harry "knows," it's wrong.