NEC X Announces Fifth AI Start-up to Graduate From Its Corporate Accelerator Program
Start-up, Beagle Technology, addresses agricultural labor shortage and cost issues with new automated pruning technology
NEC Corporation, a leader in IT and network technologies, and NEC X, the innovation accelerator for NEC’s emerging technologies, announced that Beagle Technology is the fifth start-up to graduate from the NEC X Corporate Accelerator Program (CAP).
Beagle Technology has developed unique computer vision and robot control technologies, supported by NEC technology researchers, to automate pruning and shoot thinning of wine grapevines. The machine detects the height and depth of vines using computer vision. It then adjusts, locates clippers, and cuts vines at precise locations. This patent-pending solution replaces manual operation, provides improved accuracy and speed, and reduces cost by about 25% for pruning and 70% for shoot thinning.
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“Beagle Technology implemented an AI solution in an effort to address the decreasing labor force in the agriculture industry,” said Shige Ihara, CEO of NEC X. “They put their solution to use in real-life scenarios by testing 400 acres for pruning with several paying clients they obtained during the customer validation phase of NEC X CAP. In addition, they started a paid shoot thinning trial this year involving 250 acres with one of the top Washington-based commercial growers. We are very impressed with their success and excited to see Beagle Technology spin out of NEC X and move on to the next phase of their growth.”
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“We have experienced a 25% reduction in farm labor since 2000 in the USA,” said Yang Fang, CEO, and Co-founder of Beagle Technology. “Growers are desperate for solutions to sustain operation with the scarcity of labor supply and rising cost. At the beginning of 2021, I started working with the NEC X program director and researchers to study how to solve this problem. I am excited that we made a lot of progress in the past year. We integrated AI and robotics software with traditional equipment to mechanize manual operations, resulting in far superior accuracy and consistency. Today we are working with five wine grape growers, including The Wine Group and Foley Family Farm, and estimate to scale up to thousands of acres in the next season.”
In addition to Beagle Technology, NEC X accelerates stealth-mode start-ups, including a video advertisement platform, a drone rescue service, insole sensors for medical applications and a group mental resilience service, all aiming to raise funds later this year.
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