Robotic Weed Killer Takes the Field


While digital transformation is a term commonly shared in the industrial sector, it’s encouraging to see that many of these technologies have wider-reaching applications. This dynamic includes expanding the applications of automation to the farming sector. While we’ve covered autonomous tractors and AI-enabled drones for agricultural use, a new robot developed by ecoRobotix offers a solution to one of food productions’ most common, yet daunting challenges – weed control.

The ecoRobotix unit looks pretty harmless – kind of like a large gaming table on four wheels. But it could save farmers thousands of dollars a year by using embedded cameras and vision sensors that allow it distinguish weeds from crops in applying herbicides more precisely.

A GPS system provides navigational support for the solar-powered, autonomous machine. Two arms on the underside of the unit distribute the herbicide.

The primary benefit stems from cost savings related to the more efficient application of weed-killing chemicals. The ecoRobotix developers say it uses 20 times less herbicide than current spray systems, which also provides some environmental appeal to farmers.

Additionally, the machine weighs just under 300 pounds and carries a smaller footprint than the equipment traditionally used for attacking weeds. It can run for up to 12 hours when fully charged, helping to reduce fuel costs, and can be configured and controlled via a smartphone.

However, the folks at ecoRobotix might want to get things moving quickly. John Deere recently acquired Silicon Valley-based Blue River for $305 million. That company has developed a similar system that’s pulled behind a tractor – meaning it won’t offer the fuel savings, but it’s probably less expensive.

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