The EU-funded agROBOfood project has supported the Biospray Industrial Challenge project to adapt Ecorobotix’s ultra-high precision spraying technology to meet the needs of biocontrol applications. Field trials for three types of applications in sugar beets were conducted.
Biocontrol products are derived from natural ingredients (such as vinegar and geranium) and can offer effective crop treatment. They are assumed to be highly effective herbicides and pesticides, to degrade totally (so don’t remain in the soil/environment) and to require less energy to produce (reducing the CO2 footprint).
“For example, ‘natural’ herbicides can be used to treat weeds but can also harm the crops if they were broadly sprayed so they are best delivered by an ultra-high precision sprayer which targets individual plants (spraying only weeds but not crops)”, says Steve Tanner, CTO Ecorobotix.
The biocontrol products can be used both in conventional farming and bio/organic farming. However, formal homologation of these biocontrol products is still ongoing for use in organic/bio farming.
The EU-funded agROBOfood project has supported the Biospray Industrial Challenge project to adapt Ecorobotix’s ultra-high precision technology to meet the needs of biocontrol applications and to conduct field trials for three types of applications.
Sugar beet was selected as the crop for the trials because few chemical synthetic herbicidal active ingredients are available today and further reductions are expected in the coming years. Therefore, the Biospray project targeted three crop care applications in sugar beet: selective application of pelargonic acid (organic herbicide), azadirachtin and spintor (two organic insecticides).
According to Ecorobotix the field test results across two seasons showed satisfactory weeding results and a reduction of insecticide use. Furthermore, herbicide savings of 70-95% can be made using ARA’s Ultra-High Precision Sprayer. More agronomic tests are needed to validate the exact efficiency of these new biocontrol products and fine-tune machine performance for this use-case.
Although the project started with AVO, an autonomous robot with ultra-high precision spot spraying technology, a change has been made which led to the development of the ARA ultra-high precision sprayer, which is 3x the size of AVO and is towed behind a tractor. “With ARA, AVO’s spot spraying technology has been improved with higher precision and faster speed of operation. A towed sprayer is also easier for farmers to use and more economical.” says Steve Tanner.
The ARA Precision Sprayer is a ultra-high precision sprayer with an ability to treat plant-by-plant with an accuracy of 6×6 cm. According to Ecorobotix ARA’s technology can accurately detect, classify, and spray only individual weeds (avoiding surrounding soil and crops), thanks to its AI based plant recognition capability and ultra-high precision (UHP).
Ecorobotix claims its UHP-spraying solution is radically different from conventional and spot-spraying herbicide application, making it more efficient and more cost-effective solution which can be used for both selective and non-selective herbicides.
Ecorobotix says the Biospray project has proven ARA’s potential in sustainable selective and non-selective herbicide application. ARA is commercially available and in use across the EU.