Intelligent weed control system launched for veg market

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A new, intelligent spraying system for use in onions, leeks and carrots has been launched after a successful collaboration between Techneat Engineering and Tillett and Hague Technology Limited.

Weed Wizard is a tractor-driven, front-mounted, 3-bed, intelligent spraying system with a high resolution 6m hydraulic folding boom.

Using very high-speed, narrow jet nozzles spaced every 100mm across the full width of the boom, its three-camera system identifies and tracks weeds as they come into view, applying a narrow flat fan spray onto each weed as it passes under each nozzle. Each camera tracks a single bed and is mounted directly above the crop row giving the machine the best possible overhead view of the weed population as each crop pass is made.

At a working speed of 5kph, each nozzle can react multiple times in a matter of milli-seconds ensuring that no targeted weed is missed during each pass. The boom is also deliberately set at a height of just 50cm above ground level, making the machine far less susceptible to drift in windier conditions when combined with the use of extremely low drift, flat fan nozzles.

The Weed Wizard is available in tank sizes of either 650l or 250l, operates in normal daylight conditions, and does not require infra-red technology. “This gives it a significant advantage because it does not require a hood to cover any part of the sprayer to maintain dark conditions. Use of a hood can easily damage the crop during operation,” says Tom Neat, Techneat Engineering’s MD.

A side-shift system also supports the accuracy of the Weed Wizard by ensuring that the sprayer boom maintains a stable position over the crop at all times, even if the tractor cannot, due to uneven ground.

The new system offers a number of different pre-settings, enabling the operator to set the minimum weed size for control before operation and vary the amount of chemical that is applied to each target weed to minimize overspray. The operator can also adjust the machine’s field of vision to reflect a 1-bed, 2-bed or 3-bed growing system.

At earlier growth stages of the crop, the use of a non-selective herbicide, such as glyphosate, can also be applied at low pressure and with no spray zones via the Weed Wizard.

Nick Tillett, Director and co-founder of Tillett and Hague Technology who designed the spot sprayer software system used by the Weed Wizard, sees the intelligence and reliability of the system as the keys to its success.

Mr Tillett says; ”The spot sprayer software simultaneously monitors the forward speed of the tractor and assesses the visual data from each camera using computer algorithms to identify weeds based on a combination of factors including the plants position relative to crop rows, size, shape and colour.

“Although the system was originally designed for targeting volunteer potatoes, it has since been developed to recognize all types of broadleaf weeds. Once a weed has been identified on screen, the algorithm then decides which nozzles should be switched on, and for how long, in order to deliver the right amount of herbicide to each targeted weed with minimum overspray.

“The system is fully automated so, once the operator has pre-set the spot sprayer, it will target weeds with a very high degree of accuracy minimising collateral contact with the crop based on the specific pre-settings.

On the software licensing, there are no annual or renewal fees to pay and any upgrades are sent to the user without cost,” he concludes.

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