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Agriculture

Don’t be scared if you see this beast rolling through the orchard

It looks like something out of a “Mad Max” movie. But this shiny, rolling beast isn’t from the future – it’s the latest in agriculture automation.

It’s called the Global Unmanned Spray System, or GUSS for short and it’s being made by Crinklaw Farm Services, a Kingsburg agriculture spray company.

In technical terms, GUSS is a pesticide spray rig that precisely applies hundreds of gallons of pesticides or any other farm chemical through an orchard.

The cool part is that it does it automatically – no driver is needed. An operator punches in the coordinates of the orchard, sets the amount of chemical to be used, the rate it’s applied and the speed of the vehicle. After that, GUSS is on its own. Laser sensors keep the rig on track. It can even turn automatically at the end of a row, shutting off the spray blower and turning it back on when it enters a new row.

A technician in a truck parked in the field monitors multiple units simultaneously.

It’s a first of its kind in an industry that is rapidly looking at automation to deal with the higher cost and availability of labor.

“And it’s being made right here in little old Kingsburg,” said Gary Thompson, marketing director at Crinklaw Farm Services. “We are always looking to innovate and come up with better ways of doing things.”

Thompson said GUSS makes spraying more efficient and safer. Sensors will automatically shut off the machine when it encounters an obstacle. The machine is precise and eliminates over-spraying.

Crinklaw has two machines in operation and plans on making two more. For now, the company is keeping the machines for its own use. It plans on showing off GUSS at the upcoming World Ag Expo in Tulare. The three-day event opens in mid-February.

Thompson said that while GUSS was designed for efficiency, its shiny exterior, big tires and black rims make it look like no other sprayer you have seen.

“We also wanted it to look good,” he said.

Robert Rodriguez: 559-441-6327, @FresnoBeeBob

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