Gadgets

Smartsheet co-founder’s next project is a robotic rock picker-upper


A co-founder of Smartsheet, the enterprise collaboration startup that just filed for an IPO, is taking a hard right turn into the world of agriculture robotics. Brent Frei tells GeekWire that he has been working on an automated system for clearing rocks from land. It’s a bit unexpected, but far from a bad idea.

While doing a little farming work with his kids last year, including the less than stimulating task of picking up big rocks and throwing them in a tractor-trailer, it occurred to him that this was precisely the kind of thing that an automated platform would be good at.

There are some semi-automated solutions, but nothing simple enough that you could just plop it on a few acres and tell it “go grab all the rocks this big or bigger.”

Why not apply to this all the tech that’s going into watering, growing and picking? It seems at the very least he might make something that he himself could use, so he started TerraClear in October to create a “Roomba for rock picking.”

It’s still a ways off even from prototype stage, but it’s a great example of how wide open the world is to new applications of computer vision and robotics if you keep your mind open.



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