In bid to compete with Amazon, Walmart files patents for farming drones

Walmart has been expanding the reach of its grocery business for several years, and may be looking to use technology to make its supply chains more efficient. The retail giant has filed patents for six drones that would help automate the farming process, Business Insider reported. The full details of the drones  haven’t been revealed, but we do know that one is meant to pollinate crops, one would work to protect plants from pests, and a third would keep an eye on plant health.

While this would give Walmart more control over its supply chain, it is unlikely that the company is planning on going into the farming business. Instead, Walmart will sell these drones to partner farms in an attempt to make them more efficient. On the consumer side of things, this could mean higher supplies of fruits and vegetables and lower prices, though nothing is certain.

Paula Savanti, a senior consumer analyst at Rabobank, told Business Insider that she believes the drones will give Walmart more insight into what is happening on its farms, and allow for better response to changes in supply.

“I’m guessing that any tech that’s geared toward improving efficiency at the farm level would benefit them. It would allow them to anticipate supply problems and adjust accordingly,” Savanti said.

Overall, this would help make Walmart’s supply chain more predictable and help it better compete with online retailers — most notably Amazon. Savanti noted that the rise of Amazon has triggered a change in the way retailers look at technology. It is no longer enough to simply have a well-designed web site.

“Part of the ‘Amazon effect’ is making these [retail] companies start looking into investments in different areas beyond ecommerce,” Savanti said. “It forces them to redirect investments to improving their technological capabilities in general — not just at the end of the supply chain, but in the beginning as well.”

Amazon may have spelled the end of the road for a lot of bookstores and electronic outlets, such as Circuit City, but consumers are still fairly new to the concept of online grocery shopping. Companies like Walmart still have a chance to compete with Amazon in that field.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Write music with your voice, make homemade cheese

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Deals

Need a new tablet? Here are the best iPad deals for March 2019

In the wide world of tablets, Apple is still the king. If you're on team Apple and just can't live without iOS, we've curated an up-to-date list of all of the best iPad deals currently available for March 2018.
Gaming

These are the must-have games that every Xbox One owner needs

More than four years into its life span, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From Cuphead to Halo 5, the best Xbox One games offer something for players of every type.
Business

4 women innovators who are using tech to help others live better lives

Meet four women leaders who are not only at the forefront of technology today, but also using tech — from robotics and medicine to food and undergarments — to help others.
Emerging Tech

Researchers gave alligators headphones and ketamine, and all for a good cause

Researchers in Germany and the United States recently gave ketamine and earphones to alligators to monitor how they process sounds. Here's what it reveals about alligator evolution.
Emerging Tech

Cheese tastes different when it listens to Led Zeppelin, Swiss study finds

A funky new study says that exposing cheese to music changes its aroma and flavor. What’s more, the genre of music matters. Researchers from the Bern University of Arts played music to nine, 22-pound wheels of Emmental cheese.
Emerging Tech

Twitter is officially a teenager now. Are we raising a monster?

On March 21, 2006, Jack Dorsey sent the first ever tweet. Thirteen years later, Twitter has fundamentally changed the way we communicate. Here are some of the myriad ways it's done that.
Emerging Tech

Astronomers plan to beam Earth’s greatest hits into deep space, and you can help

A new project from the SETI Institute (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) will give the public the chance to submit compositions to be beamed into space, with the aim of connecting people around the world through music.
Emerging Tech

Scientists have a way to turn off alcoholism: Blasting the brain with lasers

Researchers from Scripps Research have demonstrated that it is possible to reverse the desire to drink in alcohol-dependent rats by targeting a part of the brain using lasers. Here's how.
Emerging Tech

China has cloned its best police dog. Now it wants to mass-produce more

Scientists in China have cloned the Sherlock Holmes of police sniffer dogs, with possible plans to mass produce it in the future. Here's why its creators think that's a great idea.
Emerging Tech

Scientists use drone to map Icelandic cave in preparation for Mars exploration

Researchers from the SETI Institute and Astrobotic Technology have demonstrated a way that astronauts may be able to map Martian caves using a Lidar-equipped drone that can travel autonomously without GPS.
Emerging Tech

A 3D printer the size of a small barn will produce entire homes in Saudi Arabia

If you’re looking for a 3D printer that can comfortably fit on the side of your desk… well, Danish company Cobod International’s enormous new 3D house printer probably isn’t for you.
Deals

Need a ride? Amazon is slashing prices on popular electric scooters

If you’re not much of a cyclist or if you’re looking for a lazier way to zip about town, an electric scooter should be right up your alley. Two of our favorites, the foldable Glion Dolly and the eco-friendly Razor scooter, are on sale…
Emerging Tech

Unexpected particle plumes discovered jetting out of asteroid Bennu

The OSIRIS-REx craft traveled to asteroid Bennu last year and won't return until 2023. But the mission is already throwing up unexpected findings, like plumes of particles which are being ejected from the surface of the asteroid.