About 150 Jersey cows in the rolling terrain at Rivendale Farms in Bulger, some 25 miles west of Pittsburgh, wear Fitbit-like collars that monitor their movement, eating and rumination patterns. They are milked not by humans but by robotic machines.
A nearby greenhouse, about a quarter-acre in size and filled with salad-bowl crops like kale, arugula and baby carrots, is automated. The temperature, humidity and sunlight are controlled by sensors and retractable metallic screens. And soon, small robots may roam the farm’s eight acres of vegetable crops outdoors to spot disease and pluck weeds.
But the plan, Mr. Tull said, is for the farm to become self-sustaining by 2020.
So Rivendale can try more things at once than others can. But its efforts, experts say, are part of a broader trend among small farmers seeking to raise healthy food and livestock using less fossil fuel, fertilizer and processed feed.