Meet the Newest Robot in Food!

This robot uses laser technology to offer a more natural solution to weed control.

Feb 25, 2022
Meet the Newest Robot in Food! | This robot uses laser technology to offer a more natural solution to weed control.

There is a new, innovative robot on the market, according to Forbes that’s disrupting the harmful herbicide industry. Carbon Robotics, an agricultural company created their robot. The “LaserWeeder” with the intention of protecting our planet. 

Herbicides are the most popular type of pesticide used in agriculture
Herbicides are chemicals used against weeds, and have been an important tool for farmers to keep their crops growing for many years. As the chemicals degrade into the soil, however, they can potentially cause significant harm to crops as well as the environment, according to the US Government Fish and Wildlife Services. While increasing weed resistance to existing herbicides sees ever more potent formulas used.

Farmers are also concerned about the long-term effects that exposure to these chemicals may have on their own health, according to Forbes. Therefore, Carbon Robotics, an agricultural robotics company, is working towards a solution to replace herbicides. They created a self-driving robot that eliminates weeds with a laser.

Farm robot uses a laser to zap 100,000 weeds an hour
“Lasers, which are essentially a way of delivering targeted energy — can kill these weeds. And we can do it with the use of our computer vision and deep learning expertise ... which allows us to in real time identify what’s a weed, what’s a crop … and kill the weeds. Get rid of them.” Paul Mikesell, founder of Carbon Robotics, said in a  recent episode of the TechFirst podcast about their robot, the LaserWeeder’s, capabilities.  

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The LaserWeeder has a tractor that uses GPS and computer vision to self-drive through the furrows of a crop field, news media Popular Mechanics reports. Moving at five miles per hour, the robot scans the plants with its high resolution cameras. Meanwhile, the machine learning technology identifies the unwanted plants and fires a laser to cut through and stop the weeds from growing, according to the report.

Machine Learning is key to fast weed identification
Machine learning is software based on the idea that systems can learn from the data that gets put into them. With this technology, the robot very quickly learns to differentiate between weeds and crops.

“It’s able to say ... ‘this is a spinach,’ which is a crop that somebody might grow, and ‘this is a purslane,’ which is a weed that somebody may want to kill,” Mikesell tells Forbes. 

Working together with  farmer expertise, the robot continues to improve in accuracy each harvest. 

Farmers see a bright future with robots
The LaserWeeder has already gone through several harvesting cycles and is enjoying good feedback from farmers piloting working with the robot. As herbicides are harmful to soil and farmer health, replacing them with robots already seemed like a positive incentive, but the innovation promises to also save farmers on costly herbicide bills. 

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Additionally, Forbes reports that the farmers are aware of the damage that herbicides have on their produce in terms of leading to reduced nutrient levels across their crops. If they can efficiently replace the need for herbicides, farmers can start to restore nutrients and provide people with healthier vegetables. 

In more ways than one, Carbon Robotic’s LaserWeeder seems to be contributing to a healthier and brighter future.  

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Yael has a passion for research and discovery and devoted her studies to science. She is fascinated by anything technology related and how it can improve people’s lives. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, swimming and storytelling.