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article imageWeed killing robots offering chemical alternative

By Tim Sandle     May 24, 2018 in Environment
A technological solution to over-use of agricultural chemicals is there. An artificial intelligence-powered robotic weed hunter can potentially reduce the need for herbicides, as well as genetically modified crops.
Intensive agricultural methods involve spraying large quantities of weed killer chemicals over fields. Certain agrichemicals are required for specific crops that have been genetically modified. Invariably this is by the same company that makes the weed killing chemicals. Genetically modified crops are plants where the DNA has been modified using genetic engineering methods. In many cases, the aim is to introduce a new trait to the plant which does not occur naturally in the species. An important matter of debate has been the impact of genetically modified crops on pesticide use, particularly for herbicide-tolerant crops and the use of chemicals like glyphosate.
There is now the potential for an automated alternative. According to Technology Review, robots are being developed to remove weeds, negating the need for chemicals.
EcoRobotix claims its robo-brigade will decrease total herbicide use by a factor of 20.
EcoRobotix claims its robo-brigade will decrease total herbicide use by a factor of 20.
EcoRobotix
An example is a device called ecoRobotix, which can move through roll through fields, using computer vision, GPS RTK and sensors to target and remove, or target and spray individual weeds. According to the developers of EcoRobotix, the device has the capability to lower total herbicide use by a factor of 20.
The advanced vision enables the device to follow crop rows, and to detect the presence and position of weeds in and between the rows. Then to robotic arms apply a microdose of herbicide, systematically targeting the weeds that have been detected. The robot can work for up to 12 hours a day, and without the need for a human operator. The device, weighing just 130 kilograms, is solar powered, with no rechargeable batteries.
An alternative machine comes from Franklin Robotics, where a waterproof robot, called the Tertill and which weeds flower and vegetable gardens, has been developed.
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