Updated: Dec 17, 2019
Hemp and cannabis farmers will soon have an alternative to spraying chemicals in their fields as Rootwave and Small Robot Company, two agritech startups have partnered to develop a high-precision robot that will kill weeds with the snap of electricity.
Small Robot has already developed a series of small, agritech robots named Tom, Dick, and Harry which are able to automate some of the routine tasks of today’s farming. Tom is a scouting robot that looks similar to the Mars Rover which uses computer vision to map the location of weeds in the field of hemp or cannabis with the ability to cover about 50 acres per day.
Dick, is a weeding robot named Rootwave that destroys weeds by an electric current, boiling them from the inside. Farmers are becoming desperate as they are looking for non-chemical solutions as existing chemicals are becoming less effective against weeds and the continued banning of products with glyphosate which is a common ingredient in a product called Roundup made by Monsanto, some experts have suspected this chemical to be a cause of cancer, in turn, resulting being banned in countries like the Netherlands, Italy, Austria, and the Czech Republic while France and Germany will be eliminated by 2023.
Mechanical weeding also known as hoeing can damage the soil and isn’t always able to get rid of the weeds. Other ways to destroy weeds could be jet streams of hot water or lasers that are expensive and utilize a lot of energy. Electrical weed zapping can be as cost-effective as herbicides at around $3 per acre.
The two companies are expecting to have a system available for commercial testing by the fall of 2021. Once testing is successful these new robots could challenge the global herbicide market of $26B dominated by Syngenta, BASF, DowDupont, and Monsanto owned by Bayer.
Companies like Ecorobotix falling into precision weeding startups have arrived to challenge the current spraying model. This particular system uses up to 15 times less herbicide than current methods. Naio Technologies located in Toulouse are building robots for large scale vegetable farms while Denmark’s Agrointelli is developing farming robots that provide precision herbicide doses. Rootwave partnered with Steketee developed a weed zapper that can be pulled along with a tractor.
A larger revolution in hemp and cannabis farming will be occurring once the industry moves towards smaller robots making it more economical for smaller plots of farms while using less water, leading to less soil erosion.
The move to per plant precision in the fourth agricultural revolution utilizing swarms of smaller robots completing the work. It will not only change the look of a farm but it will also change the way we grow food and medicine.