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Naïo delivers field robot for weed control in sugar beets

The next generation of the BlueBob prototype robot is a six-row, fully electric and autonomously navigating field robot, for mechanical weed control in sugar beets between the first two leaves stage and canopy closure. Naïo Technologies delivered BlueBob to the seed breeding company Strube D&S GmbH.

The project is being realised in cooperation with Naïo Technologies, leader in agricultural robotics solutions, and the Fraunhofer Development Centre for X-ray Technology EZRT, a division of the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS. BlueBob 2.0 is equipped with Naïo navigation technology and has been enhanced with Strube/Fraunhofer technology for sugar beet detection.

Complete elimination of weeds

The field robot is used in the phase between the first two leaves stage and canopy closure, thanks to a combination of inter-rows tools guided by camera and in-row powered tools based on AI. The result, says Naïo, is an almost complete elimination of weeds in between rows and between all plants.

“The weeding principle is based on distinguishing between weeds and beets in real time and at a very early stage. This is an essential advantage for eliminating weeds quickly and to avoid competition between weeds and beets,” emphasises Christian Hügel, Head of Seed Quality Research at Strube.

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The field robot is used in the phase between the first two leaves stage and canopy closure, thanks to a combination of inter-rows tools guided by camera and in-row powered tools based on AI. - Photo: Naïo Technologies
The field robot is used in the phase between the first two leaves stage and canopy closure, thanks to a combination of inter-rows tools guided by camera and in-row powered tools based on AI. - Photo: Naïo Technologies

Multispectral cameras

All living plants are recorded by multispectral cameras. “Each plant position is precisely located, and an artificial intelligence algorithm is used to analyse the phenotype of each individual plant and classify it into weeds and beets,” says Hügel.

Turning in the field

Turning in the field is also no problem for the robot. It autonomously follows the track of the seed drill, which has recorded the RTK GPS coordinates of the driving route with an antenna on the seed drill thanks to the navigation system from Naïo Technology. BlueBob autonomously finds the rows and the tracks, recognises the end of the field, and turns independently into the next track on its own.

“The weeding performance around half a hectare per hour is impressive, and the autonomy of the batteries allows a continuous shift of eight hour”, Bruno De Wulf, Project Manager BlueBob at Strube said.

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