By coupling its cloud and open autonomy platforms to disrupt agriculture, Northstar Robotics is on track to solve farm labor shortages and reduce farm input costs.

Swift Navigation Case Study: Northstar Robotics
Swift Navigation Case Study: Northstar Robotics

Contributed by | Swift Navigation

Founded in 2016, Northstar Robotics is an agricultural technology company focused on delivering autonomous solutions to benefit farmers. Upon inception, its founders looked to their home province of Manitoba, Canada and identified the need to address both the agricultural labor shortage problem and to lower farm input costs. Using advanced technologies, Northstar Robotics is working to attract talent to—and investment in—Manitoba and to benefit farmers across North America.



There are many factors at play for the labor shortage facing today’s farmers— from an aging workforce, traditional laborers moving to higher paying jobs, lack of local labor to overarching immigration policies—but the need for qualified labor remains. Distinct from historical shifts to robotics and technology in other industries, many farmers would prefer to hire human labor to tend their crops but turn to technology as that becomes a less reliable option.

The cost of this shift can be cumbersome, as simply replacing equipment with the latest technology is not a financially feasible solution for most farmers. Farmers have invested a lot of money in their equipment and it doesn’t make financial, or practical, sense to replace tractors and combines that are in good working condition.



Through its open hardware and software platform, Northstar Robotics is working with farmers to turn existing farm equipment into customized, autonomous solutions for their fields. Its retrofit kit works well with most equipment since many models of tractors use the same steering, acceleration and control systems. Using its industry insight and technological know-how, Northstar Robotics is also building new robotic applications to transform farming and set the standard for what modern agricultural equipment should be. Northstar Robotics’ intelligent control system connected to its cloud robotics platform allows farmers to dictate to equipment its task—feed it, weed it, seed it, harvest it—all from the OpenSteer app on their phone.

To deliver the precision required to complete such tasks, Northstar Robotics utilizes GPS as its main sensor and requires high-precision technology to ensure accuracy for its farming customers. Initially Northstar Robotics tested a singleband receiver as part of its solution but realized that a multi-band receiver was needed to deliver both accuracy and faster start times. It also required a complete solution that could get GNSS corrections over a network. Northstar Robotics turned to Piksi® Multi—the multi-band, multi-constellation GNSS receiver from Swift Navigation.



Piksi Multi delivers centimeter-level accuracy and is able to achieve an RTK fix within seconds. In addition to its precision and affordable price, Piksi Multi is an ideal resource for agricultural autonomy localization with its ability to provide location information in a field without lane markings or other distinct features, along with repeatability and stationary heading.

Using Piksi Multi, Northstar Robotics is able to deliver a three-pronged approach to achieve its vision. It works with OEMs interested in creating the next generation of smart precision agriculture machines, it makes Autonomy Kits allowing early adopters to add autonomous capabilities to their existing equipment and it offers custom retrofit services to take a farmer’s existing equipment to make it fully autonomous.

By coupling its cloud and open autonomy platforms to disrupt agriculture, Northstar Robotics is on track to solve farm labor shortages and reduce farm input costs.


The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of RoboticsTomorrow
Swift Navigation

Swift Navigation

Swift's GNSS solutions deliver an order-of-magnitude higher precision at a fraction of the cost of traditional GPS solutions and are designed and assembled in California, USA. With customers around the world, Swift is already at work navigating an automated future in autonomous vehicles, UAV, robotics, survey, control, agriculture and other industries.

Other Articles

Swift Navigation Case Study: Left Hand Robotics
The challenges around outdoor snow removal are two-fold. First, businesses and commercial sites must keep walkways and pathways clear for safety reasons and they face a labor shortage of those willing and able to do such incremental work.
Swift Navigation Case Study:
Yeti Snow Technology
Yeti has the goal to develop an autonomous snow clearing service for use on future airports. The product will be introduced in steps, in parallel with the development of technology for self-driving vehicles.
Swift Navigation Case Study: Prairie Robotics
The Spraybot delivered inch-accurate positioning and instantaneous heading. Its autonomous navigation had built-in obstacle selection and avoidance. It was designed to both detect and identify plants and rows and deliver spot spraying.
More about Swift Navigation

Comments (0)

This post does not have any comments. Be the first to leave a comment below.

Post A Comment

You must be logged in before you can post a comment. Login now.

Featured Product

SICK, Inc. - Low-Cost LiDAR: Higher Technology That's Easy to Use

SICK, Inc. - Low-Cost LiDAR: Higher Technology That's Easy to Use

LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) is one of the most reliable methods for parts sensing in factory automation today. SICK has made this technology affordable and easy to use! Click on the video link below to learn about the TiM1xx LiDAR sensor and how it provides: - Area scanning LiDAR technology in a standard sensor package - 200-degree field of view and 3 meter sensing range allows for 169 square feet of area scanning - Compact size and light weight enables ease of deployment in "non-standard" type applications, like end-of-arm robotic tooling - Wide area scanning without having to mount a transmitter and receiver makes installation much easier - IO Link for easy configuration