A robotic approach to agriculture is nothing new. An increasing number of companies are working on robotics innovations such as multifunctional Slopehelper, autonomous tractors, robotics harvesters, autonomous sprayers, and much more.
Now, an autonomous robotics company, Carbon Robotics, unveiled its third-generation autonomous weed elimination robots. The Autonomous Weeder leverages robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), and laser technology to safely and effectively drive through crop fields to identify, target, and eliminate weeds.
The advent of this new generation of weed-killing robots is said to be very timely when weeds are a major challenge for many of the world’s agriculture. The main reason is that weeds compete fiercely with crops or plants for space, sunlight, and soil nutrients. In addition, weeds can also make it easier for insects to damage plants. Therefore, weed control is always the top concern of the farmer.
There are different options for weed control, for example, with chemical herbicides or harvesting the herbs by hand. The first method can also contaminate water and soil, consequently damaging crops. The second one is slow and tedious work that not everyone is willing to do.
However, the pilot demonstrations of the Autonomous Weeder show that this agricultural machine can destroy weeds well without harming land or water resources. Most importantly, it does not use chemicals that, while effective against weeds, are both costly and not particularly beneficial for the environment and even crops.
Instead, the robots utilize high-power lasers to eradicate weeds through thermal energy without disturbing the soil. The automated robots allow farmers to use less herbicides and reduce labor to remove unwanted plants while improving the reliability and predictability of costs, crop yield, and more.
When it enters the field, this four-wheeled robot weighing 4,300 kg uses GPS, computer vision, and high-resolution cameras to find weeds in the fields. An onboard computer powered by artificial intelligence (AI) can identify the weeds, and eight simultaneously operating 150 W lasers will then wipe out the weeds.
The groundbreaking technology is designed for row crops with 200 acres to tens of thousands of acres. This fully autonomous machine runs on a diesel engine and can run around the clock, handling 15 to 20 acres per day. In context, a human farmer checks about an acre of crops per day.
“AI and deep learning technology are creating efficiencies across a variety of industries, and we’re excited to apply it to agriculture,” said Carbon Robotics CEO and Founder Paul Mikesell. “Farmers, and others in the global food supply chain, are innovating now more than ever to keep the world fed. Our goal at Carbon Robotics is to create tools that address their most challenging problems, including weed management and elimination.”
The startup has been developing and testing its robots that destroy weeds since 2018 with the help of farmers. It has already sold out of its 2021 models, but new models for the 2022 growing season are available for pre-order.