AI-powered robots cut out weeds while leaving crops untouched

The machines could help to "drastically increase the efficiency of the farming industry.”
Loukia Papadopoulos
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FarmWise's robot.


In farming, weeds can strangle crops and destroy yields. Unfortunately, spraying herbicides to deal with the intrusive plants pollutes the environment and harms human health and there simply aren't enough workers to tackle all the weeds by hand.

A new startup called FarmWise has come up with a solution: autonomous weeding robots that use artificial intelligence to cut out weeds while leaving crops untouched, according to an MIT report published on Thursday.

“We have a growing population, and we can’t expand the land or water we have, so we need to drastically increase the efficiency of the farming industry,” company co-founder Sebastien Boyer told MIT. “I think AI and data are going to be major players in that journey.”

The company currently boasts two super weed cropping robots: the Titan and the Vulcan. Both are powered by an AI that directs hundreds of tiny blades to snip out weeds around each crop without harming the healthy plants. Both also allow for human supervision as the robots work to remove the pesky weeds.

But that’s not all.

More than just weeding

FarmWise now has over 15,000 commercial hours under its belt and has ambitious plans to use the data it collects for more than just weeding.

“It’s all about precision,” Boyer said. “We’re going to better understand what the plant needs and make smarter decisions for each one. That will bring us to a point where we can use the same amount of land, much less water, almost no chemicals, much less fertilizer, and still produce more food than we’re producing today. That’s the mission. That’s what excites me.”

Boyer added that his company’s mission is to turn AI into a tool that is as reliable and dependable as GPS is now in the farming industry.

“Twenty-five years ago, GPS was a very complicated technology. You had to connect to satellites and do some crazy computation to define your position. But a few companies brought GPS to a new level of reliability and simplicity. Today, every farmer in the world uses GPS. We think AI can have an even deeper impact than GPS has had on the farming industry, and we want to be the company that makes it available and easy to use for every farmer in the world,” Boyer concluded in the report.

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