Automated weed removal technology including unmanned vehicles
, popularly known as robots, have started to enter agriculture and provide an alternative path to weed control with reduced dependence on both the agricultural chemicals industry and hand weeding. Robots have the potential to improve the weeding efficiency while reducing environmental and economic costs (Fennimore et al. 2016; Xiaolong, et al., 2020). Robotic technologies for weed removal will be much cheaper at $11 to 17 million/unit compared to >250 million to develop a new herbicide (Rṻegg et al. 2007). All robots are designed on the premise of selectively identifying and eliminating weeds while minimizing disturbance to the crop.
Even though unmanned vehicles are developed using different platforms, they have one thing in common; the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to identify crops grown in defined patterns (rows) and weeds therein. My lingering question has been why not use AI to teach robots to only identify a crop and then spray/weed/flame every other plant in their path? This system would only require programming changes from crop to crop without dealing with a bloated knowledge database full of weed image algorithms, whose growth could be affected by weather conditions.
Sources & Additional Reading
Fennimore, S. A., Slaughter, D. C., Siemens, M. C., Leon, R. G., and Saber, M. N. (2016). Technology for automation of weed control in specialty crops. Weed Technology, 30(4):823–837.
Fernandez-Cornejo, Jorge, Richard Nehring, Craig Osteen, Seth Wechsler, Andrew Martin, and Alex Vialou. 2014. Pesticide Use in U.S. Agriculture: 21 Selected Crops, 1960-2008, EIB-124, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, May 2014.
Heap, I., (2021). International Herbicide Resistant Weed Database. Online. (Accessed, April 21, 2021). Available at www.weedscience.org.
Jeschke, P. 2016. Progress of modern agricultural chemistry and future prospects. Pest Management Science 72:433–455.
Kumar, V., Felix, J., Morishita, D., and Jha, P. (2017) Confirmation of Glyphosate-Resistant Kochia (Kochia scoparia) from Sugar Beet Fields in Idaho and Oregon. Weed Technol. doi: 10.1017/wet.2017.80.
Timmons, F. L. 1970. A History of Weed Control in the United States and Canada. Weed Science 18 (2): 294-307.
Xiaolong W., Stéphanie, A., Philipp, L., Cyrill, S., Cédric, P. 2020. Robotic weed control using automated weed and crop classification. hal-02484462