Replacing herbicides with robots

  • A US company has received funding to commercialise a prototype weed-pulling robot that will reduce herbicide use. The ‘lettuce-bot’ uses algorithms to detect and differentiate between plants, even if they are touching. When it detects a weed, it injects enough fertiliser to kill the weed, without the need for pesticides.
  • It is expected that the technology will not only be more cost-effective than current approaches, but also has the potential to reduce the weight of US pesticide used “by over 250 million pounds a year”.
  • The technology is currently limited to lettuce production, and will require new algorithms to be developed to be applied to different crops.

The issue of weeds becoming more resistant to pesticides is a global problem, and therefore the development and commercial viability of such techniques will become increasingly important and be applicable to both organic and conventional production. Reducing pesticide use will also reduce environmental damage and related economic costs associated with remediation.

For more information, visit: http://tinyurl.com/cbeo4co

About Julia Chatterton

Systems modeller with a particular expertise in food, farming and agricultural systems. Working with life cycle assessment methods for over 4 years to assess and analyse the environmental burdens associated with food and other production systems.
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