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Targeted electrocution

Targeted electrocution

Small Robot Company is developing weed ‘zapping’ technology for its Dick robot and, after in-house field trials earlier this year, has progressed to farm trials with its farmer investors this autumn.


Chief marketing officer Sarra Mander explains: “Using weed maps from data gathered by the Tom robot and processed using artificial intelligence, five probes on the Dick robot destroy weeds with an electrical charge that passes down the stem and into the root, using a soil engaging wheel to complete the circuit.”


The technology is already proven in partner Rootwave’s handheld electrical weeders which are used in the groundcare industry, but lower voltages are required to tackle relatively soft, leafy weed growth rather than the likes of Japanese Knotweed, for example.


Weed mapping will also permit selective weed control, where farmers may want to leave favourable non-crop plants, such as pollinators, undisturbed.


“Establishing weed thresholds helps increase the efficiency of the weeding operation while also impacting on pricing,” Ms Mander adds.


“Some farms may have a maximum price for weed control of £150 per hectare and a ‘zero tolerance’ approach will be more costly. Equally it may be necessary where the aim is to control yield-limiting weeds such as black-grass.”


A commercial weed zapping service is expected to be launched in 2021, alongside a satellite office in Cambridgeshire to extend the scope of field trials.

Life without a sprayer

Life without a sprayer

Lemken bought Dutch manufacturer Steketee, best known for its mechanical weeders, in 2018, intending to develop its products to offer a range of non-chemical weed control solutions. This includes the use of electrical weed destruction and discussions have taken place with Rootwave in the UK to supply the electrical solution. Steketee has already advanced into automatic camera guided mechanical weeding.


This summer, Lemken also announced it was pulling out of crop sprayer production and moving its focus to non-chemical weed control.


Laurens Struik, designer at Steketee, says: “The Lemken Group is still involved in ongoing projects looking at electronic weeding and we believe such innovative methods and technology will be at the forefront of agricultural crop care in the near future.”

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