How agricultural robots protect the environment
Meet the agricultural robots Tom, Wilma and Dick.They ensure that weeds are destroyed with the latest technology instead of chemicals. Nature says thank you.
Weeds are a problem for agriculture. It takes away space and nutrients from crops, weakens plants, and ensures fewer harvests. However, conventional machines cannot distinguish crops from weeds, and manual removal, as with weeding in private gardens, is neither efficient nor affordable - so the only option is extermination with pesticides. And we are now all aware of what pesticides such as glyphosate can do. The British Small Robot Company has set itself the goal of revolutionizing agriculture and using agricultural robots to banish chemicals from the fields.
What started as an inspiration 15 years ago is now a fact. At the end of April 2021, the company unveiled the first commercial weeding robot for the agricultural industry. The idea: to eliminate weeds in the fields not by harmful chemicals, but by means of robotic helpers.
The whole thing is designed for the industrial agricultural sector and works as a robotic trio. The field is first analysed and mapped by a robot. The resulting database with information about plant species, growth and benefits is used for the subsequent processing of the field by the weeding robot. The robot moves out on command of the intelligent analysis system to selectively destroy the weeds. The dead weeds remain on the field, providing nutrients to the crops. According to Small Robot Company, the whole process can be done autonomously and in real time at any time of the day.
"Tom", the robot, explores the agricultural land for weeds on his trips. To do this, it scans the field - which can be up to 20 ha in size - and maps each individual plant. The data is then sent to the artificial intelligence "Wilma" for analysis, which evaluates the information about the crops, weeds, growth and yield. Farmers can thus decide what to do next based on the data of “Wilma”. If plants are to be removed, "Dick" the weeding robot is sent out.
"Dick" is an autonomous agricultural robot with three movable arms, each with an electrode attached to the end. It approaches the weeds according to a set plan and destroys them by means of a targeted electric shock. For the best possible result, "Dick" sends a photo of the plant to be destroyed to the AI "Wilma" each time. "Dick" thus has "Wilma" confirm whether and where exactly it should destroy the plant. The agricultural robots company confirms that even the most diverse plants are recognized in the process, including those that can be beneficial for crop growth - for example, because they attract bees or provide nitrogen for the soil. These are then naturally spared by the AI-controlled weeding robot.