Bosch-funded start-up company Deepfield Robotics is the latest company to develop a field vehicle that can distinguish weeds from crops and neatly fish them out.
The technology, named Bonirob, claims that it will make plant breeding more efficient and reduce the environmental impact of crop farming.
Bonirob, which is the size of a small car, can monitor how well new crop varieties grow, whether they are resistant to pests and how much fertiliser and water they need.
Currently, this is a painstaking manual process done by plant scientists in a laboratory.
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The agricultural robot is also said to make everyday work in the fields easier.
It can distinguish between crops and weeds according to the shape of their leaves and then fish out weeds mechanically, rather than with herbicides.
“Over time, based on parameters such as leaf colour, shape, and size, Bonirob learns how to differentiate more and more accurately between the plants we want and the plants we don’t want”
Amos Albert, Deepfield Robotics
Unwanted plants are, apparently, simply rammed into the ground with a rod.
Using machine learning, Bosch researchers look up weeds in a large number of image files so that Bonirob can accurately identify them.
Professor Amos Albert, general manager of Deepfield Robotics, explains: “Over time, based on parameters such as leaf colour, shape, and size, Bonirob learns how to differentiate more and more accurately between the plants we want and the plants we don’t want.”
Bonirob is the result of a public joint project funded by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture that saw experts from Bosch, Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences, and Amazone join forces.
In fact Amazone showed a field robot – also called Bonirob – back at the 2011 Agritechnica show. It cost £120,000 to develop and was powered by a 3hp Honda engine. The new version looks to be something of an advance.