Robotic sprayers? It's now a thing

posted by Andy Petersen -

A solar-powered robot that looks like a table on wheels was recently moving through a field of sugar beets in Switzerland. The robot scans rows of crops with its camera, identifies weeds, and zaps them with blue liquid from its mechanical tentacles. A Reuters report says the Swiss robot is undergoing its final testing before the blue liquid is replaced with actual weedkiller. The machine is a new breed of AI weeders that investors say could disrupt the $100 billion pesticides and seeds industry by reducing the need for universal herbicides and the genetically modified crops that tolerate them. The industry is bracing for the impact of digital agricultural technology and some of the biggest companies are already changing their business models in anticipation. The stakes are high as herbicides are worth $26 billion a year in sales and account for 46 percent of pesticide revenue overall. Industry experts say some of the profit pools that are in the hands of major agrochemical companies could wind up in the hands of farmers and equipment manufacturers. While still in its infancy, the plant-by-plant approach is a marked change from the standard method of crop production.

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