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article imageJapanese robot duck replaces pesticides in rice fields

By Ken Hanly     Jun 23, 2019 in Technology
Asian rice farmers for centuries used ducks as an alternative to pesticides in controlling weeds in their rice fields. The ducks paddled around flooded fields tearing up weeds, eating insects and adding fertilizer.
Practice is no longer widespread
An engineer, who works for Nissan, may replace the real duck with a robot duck. He is currently testing his prototype robot duck in Yamage prefecture in northern Japan. At present it is just a DIY project, with no plans for commercialization or data on how effective it is. Nevertheless, it is a fascinating use of technology and could turn out be a useful new tool for rice farmers avoiding the use of pesticides.
The appended video shows ducks being used instead of pesticides in rice fields. There is also a video of the robot but unfortunately there are no English subtitles.
The Algamo robot
The robot is named Algamo after the breed of duck that is used in modern times in the ancient practice. The robot has a curved enclosure with adorable but non-functioning eyes. It is about the size of a robot vacuum cleaner. It weighs 1.5 kilograms. There are two rotating brushes on its underside which function to stir up the water oxygenating it and also preventing weeds from taking root.
The robot identifies its location mainly through GPS in order to find its way through the rice paddies. The robo-duck was developed through the suggestion of a friend of the engineer who wanted to grow rice without pesticides.
The Algamo could help rice farmers avoid the use of pesticides
The robot manages to blend old and new agricultural techniques. In Japan, rice farming is threatened by declining consumption and an aging population. However, if the robot is a success it could help the culturally important industry survive in the 21st century, wherever rice is grown.
More about Robot Ducks, rice fields, rice field weeding
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