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AI Case Study

Tanimura & Antle farm automates lettuce thinning with machine vision

Tanimura & Antle, a California-based grower and seller of conventional and organic fresh lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower and other vegetables has tested Blue River Technology's LettuceBot. The technology uses computer vision and machine learning to identify and classify lettuce crops to provide selective spraying for precision agriculture.


Basic Materials


Project Overview

"Blue River's machines are robots that help farmers manage their fields more efficiently. The old-school approach is to drench an entire field in weed-killing chemicals, but Blue River combines computer vision and sophisticated machine learning algorithms to spray selectively." The company says that its LettuceBot was well received by early customers, such as the Salinas-based farm Tanimura & Antle which tried the technology in 2014. (

"The LettuceBot is pulled behind a tractor and can thin four beds at once. Information from cameras mounted on the bottom help it make billions of calculations per second selecting the best plant based on size, position and distance to its neighbor. When the LettuceBot makes a decision, it hits the plant’s leaves with a precise spray of fertilizer killing that plant while nourishing the roots of the lettuce left behind." (

Reported Results

The company claims that LettuceBot might help farmers save money and reduce herbicide use by a factor of up to 10.


"The LettuceBot is pulled behind a tractor and takes pictures of passing plants. Computer-vision algorithms compare these to a database of more than a million images, taken from different angles against different backdrops of soil and other plants, that the team have amassed from their visits to lettuce farms. A simple shield blocks out the Californian sun to prevent odd shading from confounding the software." (economist)



General Operations


Ron Yokota of produce company Tanimura and Antle explains that to cultivate lettuce, farmers "plant extra to get a good stand and then thin out the extra plants." He comments that "ongoing labor shortage means there are not enough people to do this kind of work." So Tanimura & Antle is trying out automated lettuce thinning machines in some of its fields. (



pictures of plants

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