George Fox University receives $64,000 grant to further develop autonomous vineyard rover

October 26th, 2018

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The project is latest agricultural grant the school’s engineering department has received, following a $100,000 USDA award in the spring

NEWBERG, Ore. – The prototype of an autonomous rover that can collect data on grapes as they grow is being developed in George Fox University’s College of Engineering, and now the project will get a boost thanks to a $64,000 grant through the Oregon Innovation Council’s High Impact Opportunity Project.

Data collected from the rover will assist vineyard managers with estimating eventual vine yields and plan for the harvest and winemaking process. Funding will support the further development of the equipment as well as the improvement of the processing and predictive capability of the collected data. Specifically, the grant will help fund several George Fox College of Engineering faculty, two senior design project teams and two summer interns in their work to develop an improved version of its present vineyard robot (VitiBOT).

The project was one of four selected by the council, an organization staffed and administered by Business Oregon, the state’s economic development agency. Projects were chosen from a group of proposals designed to address barriers for emerging industries, support product development and testing, or expedite technology commercialization. The rover’s development is expected to take six to 18 months and is designed to support the growth of an industry, not an individual business or its proprietary technology.

“It (the HIOP proposal) was a very competitive process, and we are honored to be recognized by Business Oregon for our ongoing commitment to working with our neighbors in the agricultural community,” said Bob Harder, dean of the George Fox University College of Engineering. “We anticipate leveraging expertise gained through our HIOP grant to develop engineering solutions that will address some of the looming challenges faced by the broader agricultural community, including labor and water shortages, climate change, disease detection, and targeted herbicide/insecticide applications.”

A review committee comprised of Oregon Innovation Council members, industry-specific experts and other experienced partners, narrowed the proposals down before final approval by the full Oregon Innovation Council, a public-private partnership made up of industry, entrepreneur, private investment and university leaders.

Other awards went to the Mercado Mobile Food Lab for a feasibility study to determine the demand for a mobile food lab; Sustainable Northwest and Oregon State University for research and development to inform new product development, marketing and commercialization for increased use of juniper wood products; and RAIN Eugene for a study to determine the best structure for a center to support the growth of early-stage food and beverage companies in the southern Willamette Valley.

George Fox’s grant comes on the heels of a $100,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture Renewable Energy Development Assistance grant awarded to the school this spring for the purpose of funding faculty and undergraduate research that will be used to help farmers and vineyard owners with tasks such as energy audits, energy efficiency, and renewable energy options for their facilities.
George Fox University is ranked by Forbes among the top Christian universities in the country and is a Christian college classified by U.S. News & World Report as a “Best Regional University.” Money magazine ranked it the No. 1 school in Oregon in its 2017-18 “Best Colleges for Your Money” list. More than 4,000 students attend classes on the university’s campus in Newberg, Ore., and at teaching centers in Portland, Salem and Redmond, Ore. George Fox offers bachelor’s degrees in more than 40 majors, degree-completion programs for working adults, six seminary degrees, and 13 master’s and doctoral degrees. The College of Engineering offers ABET accredited bachelor’s degrees in biomedical, civil, computer, electrical and mechanical engineering.


Bob Harder
Dean, College of Engineering
George Fox University

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