Small Robot Company in partnership with RootWave has developed ‘Dick’ a non-chemical weeding robot that uses electricity and AI to zap individual weeds in the field. Early field trials of the prototype will start in 2020.
“This is truly a world-first. For the first time, we can see each plant in the field – and every single weed. Instead of spraying the whole field, we can simply zap the individual weeds,” says Sam Watson-Jones, co-founder, Small Robot Company. “Farmers are integral to the environmental solution. It’s crucial that we’re working on farm to develop our technology, to ensure it delivers real benefits in field. Together, we’re creating the ultimate sustainable farming model.”
Small Robot has developed a commercial weed mapping service that uses a robot called Tom to identify the location of the weeds, this is being trialled by National Trust Wimpole Estate and Waitrose Leckford Estate farms.
Callum Weir, farm manager of the 1,500 acre (600 hectare) organic farm on the Wimpole Estate, says: “The key advantage of this technology is that it will enable us to be much more precise and targeted in controlling weeds, therefore helping us to increase crop yields and biodiversity. It is also lightweight, helping reduce compaction of soils – a consequence of using traditional tractors – which will help improve soil health.”
Andrew Hoad, Partner & Head of Waitrose’s Leckford Estate, comments: “This technology could be truly groundbreaking and has the potential to shape how we farm in the future. By helping us be more precise and targeted in controlling weeds and managing pests, this next generation of farming robots could in turn help us protect biodiversity on our land and preserve the natural environment for future generations.”
Rootwave, is a British start-up that won £1m a UK Government Innovate UK grant to scale up its technology which uses electricity to kill weeds. Electricity is applied to a weed where the natural resistance of the weed transforms the electrical energy into heat which boils it inside out from the root upwards. This kills the weed after which the plant naturally decomposes, returning its nutrients to the soil. RootWave treats deep into the roots, making it possible to treat any weed, including tough invasive species such as Giant Hogweed and Japanese Knotweed.
Calum Murray, Innovate UK’s Head of Agriculture & Food, said: “It’s fantastic to see how Innovate UK’s funding has brought together British start up RootWave and Small Robot Company to develop game changing technologies that will revolutionise the agriculture sector.
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