How artificial intelligence might solve the ‘chemical treadmill’ farmers are trapped in to kill crop-choking weeds

Blue River See Spray c John Deere

After months of research, they faced a disappointing truth: There was no way around herbicides. “Turns out zapping weeds with electricity or hot liquid requires far more time and energy than chemicals—and it isn’t guaranteed to work,” [Jorge Heraud, CEO at Blue River Technology] says. Those methods might eliminate the visible part of a weed, but not the root. And pulling weeds with mechanical pincers is a far more time-intensive task for a robot than delivering microsquirts of poison. Their challenge became applying the chemicals with precision.

If robots can prevent herbicides from having any contact with crops, it means that 18 classes of chemicals previously considered too damaging to be widely sprayed suddenly become viable. “We’re both ratcheting down the volume of chemicals that need to be used, but also expanding how many types can be used,” Heraud says. In other words, Blue River’s success might be the worst thing that could happen to the herbicide industry, or it could open up an avenue to sell new products.


He estimates that Blue River will release its first See & Spray bots in the U.S. in early 2020 and in Europe in 2021—several years sooner and on a much larger scale than it could have without [John] Deere’s army of mechanical engineers, forge factories, and 10,000 dealers around the world.

“It’s not either/or—should we do technology or agro-ecology, sustainable farming or industrial farming,” [Heraud] says. “It’s both/and. We need all solutions.”

Read full, original post: This Army of AI Robots Will Feed the World

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