Weeds are a farm's worst enemy, pushing many farmers, especially those who own larger farms, into the toxic arms of pesticides. Thankfully, there's a new non-toxic solution. This week, Blue River Technology revealed that they have raised $3.1 million in funding in order to manufacture and sell their robotic alternative to pesticides.
As modern farms become more automated, it comes as no surprise that someone has developed a robot that can do the work of finding and routing out weeds that threaten a crops' health. Blue River Technology's prototype looks just a little bit like the Mars rover. It rolls across a farm, using a computerized camera to search out weeds which it then picks and destroys, all without harming the crops at all. Furthermore, it has been well documented that weeds are becoming resistant to pesticides, making an ulterior method of weed control even more important.
Blue River Technology is a Stanford-based non-profit striving to develop advanced technology that will improve modern agriculture methods. For the time being their focus is creating an alternative to pesticides, which they say cost farmers $25 billion per year collectively.
The initial prototype was actually just a tractor with a few extra pieces and a computer mounted to it, but the current hi-tech model can differentiate between crops and weeds using a complex algorithm. Even if the two are touching, the robot will identify the weed and inject just enough fertilizer to kill it.
Blue River Technology sees their robot s playing a key role in the continued automation of farms that will become increasingly necessary to feed a growing human population.
"With the global population expected to increase to 9.5 billion by 2050, increasing food production in a sustainable way is going to be one of the great challenges of this century," Vinod Khosla, founder of Khosla Ventures, wrote in a statement. "Blue River Technology's solution will not only be more cost effective than current solutions, but has the potential to reduce U.S. herbicide use by over 250 million pounds a year."
Blue River's current prototype is being tested out in the Salinas Valley in California, where it's busy protecting lettuce plants from invasive weeds. Each type of crop needs a different algorithm, so progress is slow going but at least we know these robots won't turn on their human owners.
via Fast Company