GUSS Automation is a California-based manufacturer of autonomous mobile spraying robots for agriculture applications. The company started in 1982 as a commercial agriculture spraying company in California’s central valley. In 2014, it started to research and develop autonomous spraying machines. In 2019, GUSS Automation was born and released its first autonomous mobile sprayer for commercial agriculture.
The GUSS autonomous mobile sprayer is an autonomous mobile robot (AMR) designed to autonomously deploy agricultural chemicals to crops. The machine is designed to navigate an orchard or vineyard and safely spray the crops.
The company still runs the largest commercial tree and vine spraying operation in California and has integrated a dozen GUSS autonomous sprayers into its fleet. By using the machines everyday, the commercial spraying business provides valuable feedback to the GUSS engineering team.
In 2021, the company has deployed about 100 GUSS robots to customers around the world, some as far as Australia. GUSS robots are used on Washington hops, Yakima Valley blueberries, as well as vineyards up and down the west coast of the United States.
In California, the company works with a number of commercial applicators. Some of GUSS’ farming customers are using robots to work their internal farming operations and then renting the machine to neighbors when it’s not busy.
GUSS Automation COO Gary Thompson said, “we’re very focused on high value crops. And we are actually developing an herbicide sprayer as well. So instead of spraying the canopy of the trees or the foliage on a vineyard, we’re going to be spraying weeds on the ground. It’s going to have sensors on it that detect the weed and spray the weed. So it’s saving a lot of chemicals as you’re not just solid spraying the whole field, you’re just spot spraying weeds as it goes by.”
The company is always looking for new innovative ways to evolve the machine. Thompson added, “We definitely have future plans of getting into row crop and some other crops outside of the high value prop sector that we’ll get to in the future. But today we’re kind of focused on more of the high value crops at this point.”
Mini GUSS is a new, smaller generation of GUSS
The original GUSS was too large for many vineyards and orchards, especially apple orchards – which have branches closer to the ground. This is why the company decided to develop the mini GUSS, which has about a 30% smaller profile than its larger sibling.
Mini GUSS is 6-feet wide, 5-foot 4-inches tall and 20-feet long, has a 400-gallon tank and a 3.8-liter Cummins diesel engine to tackle the most strenuous terrain. GUSS Automation offers two tower options for mini GUSS: a vineyard tower for two row applications and an apple tower for high-density trellised orchards.
Thompson said, “our larger machine is primarily meant for trees, like almonds, pistachios, walnuts, citrus, and some stone fruit. These orchards typically use row spacing somewhere in the 18 to 22 foot range.“
Applications for mini GUSS
“The sprayer in an orchard or vineyard environment is actually used fairly year round. There’s some seasonality to it,” said Thompson. “In California, basically from March to August, it’s a crazy time for farmers, they are spraying all the time. Whereas in the winter time, it slows down. However, there are still some sprays throughout the winter, just not as frequent. So there’s no piece of equipment that goes through an orchard or vineyard more times a year than a sprayer.”
The typical ROI for a GUSS is between one and three years. The ROI depends on how many acres it’s used on during the year.
Mini GUSS has all of the automation features of the larger GUSS robot, just on a smaller scale. The company is also developing newer sprayer attachments to better fit the requirements of the newer crops.
While the GUSS robots run through the orchards autonomously, they still need to be managed by a farm hand to handle the refilling of chemicals and the initiation of operations across different parts of the farm.
The company is taking orders for the new mini GUSS and will begin filling those orders next spring. Thompson expects that they will sell out of the 2022 production run pretty quick, so if you are interested, act soon.