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Robot Programmed To Kill Weeds

Farmers across the U.S. and Canada may soon get a glimpse of BoniRob, a multi-use robotic platform about the size of a small car. The device may soon be used for plant breeding, weed control and other advanced agricultural tasks.
  BoniRob is the product of a public joint project funded by Germanyís Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture that saw experts from Bosch, OsnabrŁck University of Applied Sciences and the agricultural machinery manufacturer Amazone join forces. The Bosch startup company Deepfield Robotics took over further development in 2014.
  Deepfield spokesperson Birgit Schulz says that BoniRob uses laser positioning and satellite navigation to find its way around fields. Accurate to the closest centimeter, BoniRob will be able to detect the size, shape and color of leaves to distinguish between good plants and weeds. The weeds will be mechanically eliminated while the good plants are preserved.
  BoniRob moves around with 4 independently steerable drive wheels. It has the ability to adjust its trackwidth on the go. BoniRob runs on batteries or can be connected to a generator.
  In its current design, BoniRob can be navigated autonomously along plant rows and carry its application tools as it moves. Environmental sensors, inertial sensors, wheel odometry and GPS can be mounted for row detection and navigation.
  Schulz says that BoniRobís weeding mechanism is meant to structurally destroy weeds before they have a negative effect on the growing crop. Used in carrots, the machineís ďdeath stickĒ was 90 percent effective. The fact that itís completely mechanical, meaning no herbicides are used, is a distinct advantage. Schulz says a group of BoniRobs could greatly reduce hand weeding and help ensure an optimal harvest. Another application would have BoniRob helping other growers by applying nutrients and determining optimal harvest times. The company believes that in the next few decades BoniRob will completely change the face of vegetable farming as itís known today.
  Plant scientists think that BoniRob may also be useful in plant research. The robot could easily check the size, shape and density of leaves and look for signs of insect infestation on crops being evaluated for seed production. Recently Deepfield presented its 4D-scan system thatís capable of creating a ďpatientís recordĒ for growing plants. BoniRob recognized each individual sugar beet on a test field by using cameras and the plantís position, storing the plantís properties, such as leaf/stem size, over time. Although BoniRobís automation may eventually put some farm workers out of a job, the environmental benefits of using less or no herbicides along with better quality crops may outweigh those worker losses. Schulz says the automation in plant research is an example where a robot accomplishes tasks beyond a humanís capabilities, allowing for significant improvements in plant breeding.
   Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Deepfield Robotics, Robert Bosch Start-up GmbH, Benzstr.56, D-71272 Renningen, Germany ( www.deepfield-robotics.com).



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2016 - Volume #40, Issue #2