Did you ever think you’d be reading about a story of robots that kill weeds in farmers fields? No, it’s like something out of a Sci-Fi movie, but it’s now reality.
The makers of robot weeders say the machines can reduce pesticide use and be part of a more sustainable food system.
In the corner of an Ohio field, a laser-armed robot inches through a sea of onions, zapping weeds as it goes.
This field doesn’t belong to a dystopian future but to Shay Myers, a third-generation farmer whose TikTok posts about farming life often go viral.
He began using two robots last year to weed his 12-hectare (30-acre) crop. The robots – which are nearly three metres long, weigh 4,300kg (9,500lb), and resemble a small car – clamber slowly across a field, scanning beneath them for weeds which they then target with laser bursts.
“For microseconds you watch these reddish color bursts. You see the weed, it lights up as the laser hits, and it’s just gone,” said Myers. “Ten years ago this was science fiction.”
“Reduced herbicide usage is one of the spectacular outcomes of precision weeding,” said Gautham Das, a senior lecturer in agri-robotics at the University of Lincoln. Destroying weeds with lasers or ultraviolet light uses no chemicals at all. But even with robots that do use herbicides, their ability to precisely target weeds can reduce the use about 90% compared with conventional blanket spraying, Das said.
Five years ago there were almost no companies specializing in farm robots, said Sébastien Boyer, the French-born head of San Francisco-based robot weeding company FarmWise, but it’s now “a booming field”.
Other than engine sounds, the robots are almost silent and each one can destroy 100,000 weeds an hour, according to Carbon Robotics, the company that makes them.
A robot made by Carbon Robotics, kills weeds on farmland user lasers. Yes, that’s right, lasers!
Carbon Robotics, also in common with other agri-robotic startups, emphasizes the environmental benefits these machines can bring to farming by helping to reduce soil disturbance, which can contribute to erosion, and allowing farmers to heavily reduce or even eradicate the use of herbicides.
Carbon Robotics is pioneering the next revolution in agriculture with its Autonomous Weeder, a self-driving, tractor-sized robot that uses cameras, computers, and lasers to identify, target and eliminate weeds without damaging crops or disrupting the soil biome.
Through this transformative weed control solution, Carbon Robotics helps farmers deliver healthier, denser crops using fewer herbicides. The end result is better for the environment, for consumers, and for farmers.
The Autonomous Weeder is a modern tool for sustainable agriculture, and it helps farmers find a realistic path toward organic farming.
Thanks to our friends at The Guardian for contributing to this article.