Lasers Eliminating Weeds
Sustainable agriculture is the production of food both plant and animal products that use farming techniques that protect the environment, public health, human communities, and animal welfare. This means that herbicides and pesticides cannot be used. This often leads to an abundance of weed growth around a particular crop. These weeds often times reduce the harvest potential of a crop so they must be laboriously weeded out by hand. However, Dr. Julio Pastrana and Tim Wigbels from the Institute of Geodesy and Geoinformation at the University of Bonn have partnered with an EXIST Business Start-up Grant form the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy to create a solution to this problem plaguing sustainable agriculture. Dr. Julio Pastrana has his doctorate on the detection and classification of weeds and with the aid of statistical models at Leibniz University Hannover built an earlier concept robot with a colleague. Wigbels has a masters in computer engineering coupled with years of experience in software development. The two have come together to create their start-up known as “Escarda Technologies”. The start-up aims to design and develop a robotic system that automatically identifies weeds in a field and kills it using a series of short laser pulses.
The weed combating robot is being designed by computer scientists in the Photogrammetry Lab at the Institute for Geodesy and Geoinformation at the University of Bonn. The system will use cameras attached to an all terrain robot vehicle. It will look for and detect unwanted wild weeds growing amongst the crops. Once targeted the robot will shoot the leaves with short laser pulses that will weaken and kill them off. Dr. Pastrana says, “It is thus predicted that we will no longer need to use herbicides on our fields and the environment will be protected.”The team is now trying to move their start up forward. They are currently in the process of looking for investors to further the business plan. In the mean time the researchers are using funding from the Ministry to buy parts needed to produce and construct a viable prototype. This innovative idea is the first of its kind and has the potential to substantially improve the sustainable agriculture industry.