The Food Computer (MIT) — open source controlled-environment agriculture technology platform that uses robotic systems to control and monitor climate, energy, and plant growth inside of a specialized growing chamber. Climate variables such as carbon dioxide, air temperature, humidity, dissolved oxygen, potential hydrogen, electrical conductivity, and root-zone temperature are among the many conditions that can be controlled and monitored within the growing chamber. Operational energy, water, and mineral consumption are monitored (and adjusted) through electrical meters, flow sensors, and controllable chemical dosers throughout the growth period. (via IEEE Spectrum)
Swarmfarm Robotics — His previous weed sprayer weighed 21 tonnes, measured 36 metres across its spray unit, guzzled diesel by the bucketload and needed a paid driver who would only work limited hours. Two robots working together on Bendee effortlessly sprayed weeds in a 70ha mung-bean crop last month. Their infra-red beams picked up any small weeds among the crop rows and sent a message to the nozzle to eject a small chemical spray. Bate hopes to soon use microwave or laser technology to kill the weeds. Best of all, the robots do the work without guidance. They work 24 hours a day. They have in-built navigation and obstacle detection, making them robust and able to decide if an area of a paddock should not be traversed. Special swarming technology means the robots can detect each other and know which part of the paddock has already been assessed and sprayed.
Route to Market (Matt Webb) — The route to market is not what makes the product good. […] So the way you design the product to best take it to market is not the same process to make it great for its users.
I-JSON (Tim Bray) — I-JSON is just a note saying that if you construct a chunk of JSON and avoid the interop failures described in RFC 7159, you can call it an “I-JSON Message.” If any known JSON implementation creates an I-JSON message and sends it to any other known JSON implementation, the chance of software surprises is vanishingly small.
Stewart Collis, CTO and co-founder of AWhere, recently tweeted a link to a video by the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment, Big Question: Feast or Famine? The video highlights the increasing complexity of feeding our rapidly growing population, and Collis noted its relation to his work at AWhere. I recently caught up with Collis to talk about our current global agriculture situation, the impact of big data on agriculture, and the work his company is doing to help address global agriculture problems.
The challenge, explained Collis, is two-fold: our growing population — expected to increase by another 2.4 billion people by 2050, and the increasing weather variability affecting our growing seasons and farmers’ abilities to produce and scale to accommodate that population. “In the face of weather variability, climate change, and increasing temperatures … farmers no longer know when it’s going to rain,” he said, and then noted: “There’s only 34 growing seasons between now and , so this is a problem we need to solve now.”
Bullish on Blockchain (Fred Wilson) — our 2014 fund will be built during the blockchain cycle. “The blockchain” is bitcoin’s distributed consensus system, interesting because it’s the return of p2p from the Chasm of Ridicule or whatever the Gartner Trite Cycle calls the time between first investment bubble and second investment bubble under another name.
Hemingway — online writing tool to help you make your writing clear and direct. (via Nina Simon)
Farmbot Wiki — open-source, scalable, automated precision farming machines.
Amazon’s Chaotic Storage — photos from inside an Amazon warehouse. At the heart of the operation is a sophisticated database that tracks and monitors every single product that enters/leaves the warehouse and keeps a tally on every single shelf space and whether it’s empty or contains a product. Software-optimised spaces, for habitation by augmented humans.
Stately — a font of states which mesh together, so you can style individual states in CSS. Clever! (via Andy Baio)
Code Triage — mails you a todo from your favourite Github projects. Interesting to see (a) what happens once there’s an easy way to access things like issues across multiple projects; and (b) what a lightweight hack it is for increasing participation. What small things could you send out each day, something different to each person, that’d help you make progress? Hm.
Let’s Pool Our Medical Data (TED) — John Wilbanks (of Science Commons fame) gives a strong talk for creating an open, massive, mine-able database of data about health and genomics from many sources. Money quote: Facebook would never make a change to something as important as an advertising with a sample size as small as a Phase 3 clinical trial.
Verizon Sells App Use, Browsing Habits, Location (CNet) — Verizon Wireless has begun selling information about its customers’ geographical locations, app usage, and Web browsing activities, a move that raises privacy questions and could brush up against federal wiretapping law. To Verizon, even when you do pay for it, you’re still the product. Carriers: they’re like graverobbing organ harvesters but without the strict ethical standards.
IBM Watson About to Launch in Medicine (Fast Company) — This fall, after six months of teaching their treatment guidelines to Watson, the doctors at Sloan-Kettering will begin testing the IBM machine on real patients. […] On the screen, a colorful globe spins. In a few seconds, Watson offers three possible courses of chemotherapy, charted as bars with varying levels of confidence–one choice above 90% and two above 80%. “Watson doesn’t give you the answer,” Kris says. “It gives you a range of answers.” Then it’s up to [the doctor] to make the call. (via Reddit)
Robot Kills Weeds With 98% Accuracy — During tests, this automated system gathered over a million images as it moved through the fields. Its Computer Vision System was able to detect and segment individual plants – even those that were touching each other – with 98% accuracy.
Business Intelligence on Farms — Machines keep track of all kinds of data about each cow, including the chemical properties of its milk, and flag when a particular cow is having problems or could be sick. The software can compare current data with historical patterns for the entire herd, and relate to weather conditions and other seasonal variations. Now a farmer can track his herd on his iPad without having to get out of bed, or even from another state. (via Slashdot)
Rethinking Robotics — $22k general purpose industrial robot. “‘It feels like a true Macintosh moment for the robot world,’ said Tony Fadell, the former Apple executive who oversaw the development of the iPod and the iPhone. Baxter will come equipped with a library of simple tasks, or behaviors — for example, a “common sense” capability to recognize it must have an object in its hand before it can move and release it.” (via David ten Have)
Shift Labs — Shift Labs makes low-cost medical devices for resource-limited settings. [Crowd]Fund the manufacture and field testing of the Drip Clip […] a replacement for expensive pumps that dose fluid from IV bags.
Electric Imp — yet another group working on the necessary middleware for ubiquitous networked devices.
How Big Data Transformed the Dairy Industry (The Atlantic) — cutting-edge genomics company Illumina has precisely one applied market: animal science. They make a chip that measures 50,000 markers on the cow genome for attributes that control the economically important functions of those animals.
The Curious Case of Internet Privacy (Cory Doctorow) — I’m with Cory on the perniciousness of privacy-digesting deals between free sites and users, but I’m increasingly becoming convinced that privacy is built into business models and not technology.
Q&A with Rob O’Callahan (ComputerWorld) — an excellent insight into how Mozilla sees the world. In particular how proprietary mobile ecosystems are the new proprietary desktop ecosystems, and how the risks for the web are the same (writing for one device, not for all).
Mobile Farm Robots (Wired) — The Harvest Automation robots are knee-high, wheeled machines. Each robot has a gripper for grasping pots, a deck for carrying pots, and an array of sensors to keep track of where it is and what’s around it. Teams of robots zip around nursery fields, single-mindedly spacing and grouping plants. Think Wall-E without the doe eyes and cuddly personality, or the little forest-tending ‘bots in the 1972 sci-fi classic Silent Running.
ThinkUp 1.0 — out of beta, the software to build your own archive of your social network presence is ready for prime time. See Anil’s post for a pointed take on why this is desperately important right now.