Combatting Weeds with a Laser-Firing Robot

Combatting Weeds with a Laser-Firing Robot

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Scientists have nearly cracked a robot that can go around killing weeds on farms and in gardens. This means that pesticides won’t be needed. Scientists, we salute you!

robot killing weedsBoffins Tim Wigbels and Dr. Julio Pastrana are currently developing weed recognition software. This software, when place inside a weather-proof robot, can then detect weeds. It then will activate a laser that kills the weeds. Take that, annoying weed!

Once up and running, the weed-killing robot will make organic agriculture a breeze. The robot may also appeal to anyone who doesn’t want to waste their life pulling out weeds. Which, let’s face it, are a pain in the posterior and frankly quite rude with their stealing-of-nutrients thing they have going on.

The extensive use of chemical substances in agriculture is generating devastating effects on our environment and is also affecting human health. Additionally, several weed varieties have been developing a natural resistance to the applied chemicals. Hence new and more potent herbicides have to be developed, which have a higher toxicity with dire consequences for the environment and organisms that come into contact with it. So any help getting rid of sprayed-on toxic goop is welcome.

Dr. Pastrana and Wigbels work at the Institute of Geodesy and Geoinformation at the University of Bonn in Germany. With a business start-up grant from the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, the scientists are now driving forward the development of the weed-killing robot. All things going well, Irish farmers and keen gardeners may never have to pull out weeds again.

So how will this laser-armed weeding robot get about? The computer scientists at the University of Bonn are using cameras on an all-terrain robot vehicle. Unwanted wild weeds will be automatically identified in the various crops and combatted in a targeted way. “The robot shoots the leaves of the unwanted plants with short laser pulses, which causes a weakening in their vitality,” reports Dr. Pastrana. The laser beams burn the plant tissue, leading to the death of the plant. It’s all very Star-Wars-ish. Impressive!

“We will no longer need to use herbicides on our fields and the environment will be protected,” adds Wigbels.

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Before forming the start-up, Dr. Pastrana worked in robotics and built an earlier version of the robot with a colleague. Wigbels studied Computer Engineering and then worked in software development.

The researchers have launched their start-up called Escarda Technologies. It is now a case of finding investors and further developing the business plan so the laser-weeding robot can come to life. And the start-up has its fans: both founders recently won awards for the best start-up idea from the Bonn Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

So, let’s hope this project gets up and running soon, so farmers and backyardians can spend less time on weeds and more time on beer.

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