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DETROIT — A team from UW-River Falls will be among 19 teams of college students from top universities in the U.S., Canada and China that will compete to build robots to mechanize farm work at the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers Annual International Meeting in Detroit.

The 2018 ASABE Student Robotics Challenge, being organized by Alireza Pourreza, University of California Cooperative Extension agricultural mechanization specialist, will be held on July 31.

“The labor availability for agriculture is decreasing while the need for more food is increasing to feed the growing world population,” said Pourreza, who is based in the UC Davis Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering. “So agriculture should switch to technologies that are less labor-dependent, such as using more robots, to overcome this challenge.”

The ASABE Student Robotics Challenge provides an opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students to demonstrate their knowledge and skills of robotics in agriculture.

“The goal of this event is to encourage young agricultural engineers to get involved in building robots for agricultural applications and to get experienced as the next generation of farmers,” Pourreza said.

The challenge will be to simulate the harvest and storage of apples, a crop commercially grown in several states. The students will design and operate robots that will autonomously harvest “apples” on field that measures 8 feet by 8 feet. The robots will harvest eight mature apples (red ping-pong balls), remove and dispose of eight diseased or rotten apples (blue ping-pong balls) and leave eight immature apples (green ping-pong balls) on the tree.

This year, the competitors are being divided into a beginner division and an advanced division.

The University of Wisconsin River Falls Falcon Robotics team will be competing against teams from California Polytechnic State University; China Agricultural College; McGill University; Purdue; Texas A&M; University of California Merced; University of Nebraska Lincoln; Zhejiang University and Clemson University in the beginner division.

Competing in the advanced teams division is China Agricultural College; McGill University; University of Georgia; University of California – Davis; University of Florida and the University of Nebraska Lincoln.

The competition will be held in Cobo Center Exhibit Hall, 1 Washington Blvd., Detroit, Michigan. There will be three rounds throughout the day and each team will participate once in each round.

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