Plant health and weed-detecting robots undergo successful trials

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A trio of agri-robots from Small Robot Company which work together to monitor crop health and identify and remove weeds are to be unveiled at REAP.

The robots, named Wilma, Tom and Dick, are being trialled at three farms. Wilma provides ‘per plant intelligence’ using precise information gleaned by Tom, the scouting robot, on the health of the plant. If she identifies the plant as a weed then Dick  – the world’s first non-chemical robotic weeder – is dispatched to ‘zap’ it.

Ben Scott-Robinson, CEO and co-founder, Small Robot Company said that the success of their trials is creating tremendous excitement among the hundreds of  farmers that have invested in the technology.

Small Robot Company raised £1.1m – more 275% more than its target – in a recent crowdfunding campaign. Many of the supporters were farmers eager for the technology to become commercially available and Mr Scott-Robinson said have been involved in testing the technology helping to ensure that it is farm ready.

Describing how the new technology works, he said: “The first commercial version of Wilma is being unveiled at REAP. She creates a per-plant crop map and is then AI-enabled to recognise disease and the nutrient status of the plant, enabling precision weeding by the farmbots and, in the future, application of water, nutrients or fungicide as appropriate – cutting chemical use and emissions.

“Wilma can direct Dick on the most effective course across the field. The robot then kills the weeds, such as blackgrass, using the Rootwave technology, which is electric so there is no problem with resistance.

“In a post-glycophosphate world the ability to quickly kill pernicious weeds as they appear means that farmers don’t need to wait to drill and can take the opportunity to get crops started in the better weather in early autumn. Our lightweight farmbot Harry will also be equipped to precision drill without damaging the soil.”

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