It was only a few issues back I wrote about the anticipated emergence of increased robotic farming.
And then thanks to one of my social media connections I came across www.ecorobotix.com
If you are not familiar with the company as a farmer you will likely become aware of it, or at least its technology soon enough.
The company is developing a 100 per cent autonomous robot which will apply herbicide for in-field weed control.
There are several aspects of the machine that they are working on which make it both innovative, and very intriguing from the perspective of farmers.
To begin with the field unit would be solar powered. To be able to take the operating cost of fuel out of the equation has to interest producers, and in a world headed toward a carbon tax the prospect of alternative energy sources makes sense.
Of course on a broader scale the move to a solar powered unit follows a growing worldwide trend to evolve away from the use of non-renewable energy sources. That may not be good news for a high-cost oil producer such as Alberta, but the world is making huge steps toward alternate energy.
The autonomous robot here is shown in a video crossing the field on legs not so unlike a mechanical spider. The interest here of course is reduced footprint and plant disturbance when applying herbicides.
And then most intriguing is that the robot uses sensors to identify weed plants and then apply the herbicide directly to that weed, and only to the identified weed. The impact here is twofold, starting with reduced application of product, which is not only a major cost-reducer, but is environmentally sound.
While such cutting edge technology will come with a large upfront cost, at least initially, the prospect of no operator to pay, the safety element of not having someone on-board a bonus, coupled with fuel and herbicide savings, the machine, or at least one with similar attributes has to have farmers very interested.
In the case of crop protection products, and nutrient applications as well, the opportunity of highly targeted application opens up huge opportunities as the cost is reduced from that of broadly applying across an entire field.
However, what may be most interesting with this is to wonder what is next?
This unit is being shown online in a video, go check it out, but that only happens when a company has achieved a certain level of developmental success. What is being worked on behind closed doors that still have a few kinks to work out, but are close to a public debut? The potential is exhilarating to imagine.
Calvin Daniels is Editor with Yorkton This Week.