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article imageTwo US companies collaborate to produce autonomous weeders

By Ken Hanly     Mar 29, 2019 in Technology
Farmwise Labs a Silicon Valley startup announced that they were teaming up with Roush a Michigan-based manufacturing and automotive company to produce autonomous vegetable weeders
The two companies will cooperate over the course of this year to create prototypes for self-driving robots able to self-navigate through crops and do weeding. If the project goes well they will scale up to produce additional units next year.
Farmwise and Roush
Farmwise Labs was founded back in 2016 and builds adaptive robots for agriculture. The company is supported by a team of 20 AI and farming experts from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Stanford, and Columbia universities. The company develops autonomous machines to produce greater yields, increase profits, and be better for the environment. Currently, the company is tackling the problem of weeding on vegetable farms which up to now has involved extensive use of chemicals and often intensive labor. The company is supported by private funding. It collaborates with growers in developing its products.
Roush a subsidiary of Roush Enterprises Inc. is a product-development supplier with headquarters in Livonia Michigan. Since 1976 the company has grown so that it now has 4,000 employees and has facilities throughout North America, Europe and Asia. The company is widely known for providing engineering, testing, prototyping and manufacturing services to various areas including mobility, aerospace, and defense industries. It has several corporate subsidiaries including Roush Clean Tech that develops and manufactures alternative fuel systems for the fleet vehicle market.
Weeding robots could be a major help for Michigan farmers
The robots will be designed to carry out high-precision weeding and thinning. They will be able to operate around the clock saving the farmers from performing the time-consuming task. The robots will be built so that they can be adapted to work on different crops without difficulty.
Automation on the farm is not new
In the appended video an already existing autonomous weeder is shown at work. Many farms use robots to perform tasks such as seeding fertilization and chemical application. In the UK in 2017 researchers managed to sow and harvest a barley field using only robots.
An article from a few years ago describes an example of use of robots in the US: "In Iowa, there's a 3,000-acre farm that uses machines to accomplish most tasks, from seeding to fertilizing and chemical application. This land, owned by the Mitchell family, is known as one of the most mechanized farms in the United States, and it's far from being unique. The Mitchells and their equally high-tech neighbors are some of the top corn producers in the US, thanks to their machines. But more and more farmers in the country are also turning to agricultural robots, as laborers start dwindling in number and demands for crops and produce continue to grow. "
In places where labor is in short supply, autonomous robots may be able to increase production and meet the increasing demand for agricultural products.
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