Could a new robot developed by the German company, Bosch, known for making car parts and power tools in partnership with the German food and agriculture department, Osnabrück University, and Amazone, actually end the need for herbicides on farms?
It’s called BoniRob, and it can learn what weeds look like, travel through fields, and pluck them up faster than a speeding bullet (well, not really that fast). It kills weeds so fast, it’s almost impossible to see it in action. Using an extension that is less than 0.4 inches wide, it stamps down small weeds in one go, and with a few more attempts, it gets rid of larger ones.
According to Bosch, the robot is about the size of a small car, and uses the same type of laser-radar vision system that Google’s self-driving cars use to navigate the world. Using artificial intelligence, it is shown pictures of leaves of weeds and undesirable plants, then goes after them, row after row.
A press release by Bosch reads:
“…’We are leveraging our expertise in sensor technology, algorithms, and image recognition to make a contribution to improving quality of life, even in areas that are new for Bosch,’ says Professor Amos Albert, a robotics expert and general manager of the Bosch start-up Deepfield Robotics.
According to estimates, agricultural yields need to increase by three percent a year to keep up with population growth. Along with innovative agricultural technology and improved crop protection, more efficient plant breeding will play a particularly important role.
In this area, Bonirob automates and speeds up analysis. The robot, which is approximately the size of a compact car, uses video- and lidar-based positioning as well as satellite navigation to find its way around the fields. It knows its position to the nearest centimeter. It also helps minimize the environmental impact of crop farming.”
The robot also gets better with practice. When testing on carrot patches, BoniRob got rid of about 90% of the weeds, as reported by Popular Science.
It is being tested now on real farms, and can run for 24-hours straight, though it is powered by gasoline. Perhaps future models could be solar driven? It certainly beats spraying our crops with copious amounts of herbicides and cancer-causing chemicals, though there are improvements to be made.
And of course it means a more robotic world – taking away jobs from the people.
What do you think of this kind of farming technological advancement?