Australian company Agtecnic has launched a new spraying technology that is designed to remove the complexity of the spraying process. “In that way it differs from other spot spraying systems”, says co-founder and director Rob Johnson of Agtecnic.
According to Mr Johnson the new SenseSpray system is easy to set up. “We have reduced the number of calibrations. And you don’t need to buy a new sprayer. We are now are finalising our distribution agreement for Australia and New Zealand and an announcement will be made soon. It will probably be more cost effective than other spot spraying systems in the market.”
The technology – named SenseSpray – enables a reduction in chemical usage by up to 90%, according to Agtecnic. “We have done some trials recently and in one field we were down to an application rate of 2%”, Mr Johnson says. “You normally would not have such a low application rate. That was pretty amazing. But a reduction of 80% to 90% we have seen regularly.”
Agtecnic was founded two years ago. The Brisbane company has a team of eight people. Agtecnic helps clients to create safe, innovative, autonomous solutions to solve challenges in agriculture. It has developed autonomous technologies for agricultural vehicles, the spraying technology SenseSpray and helps clients to bring products to market, reducing time working on integrating situational awareness and autonomous technology.
“SenseSpray was an unexpected opportunity”, says Mr Johnson. “We were looking for an application for an autonomous technology vehicle for demonstration purposes. Green on brown spot spraying seemed to be a suitable application, with a reasonable low speed. It’s a task that nobody wants to do, but it is also hard to find workers.”
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Working on several kits for spot spraying, using existing technology, the Agtecnic team realised how expensive the options for spot spraying are. “We managed to come up with our own prototype in a short period of time. In four weeks, we had a couple of units in the field and four weeks after that we had a small boom spray going. We went from there and added the algorithms that we use on the green on brown.”
Last Australian summer a limited number of SenseSpray spot sprayers were used in the field. Next season Agtecnic expects to refine and scale its product, but for now it will sell SenseSpray only in the eastern states of Australia. “We are happy with the hardware, the app and the software, and we are still working on improving the app and the software”, Mr Johnson explains. “We purposely designed it to be able to scale easily.”
The development team set out to design a simple system, without complexity and with an easy diagnosis. “The cameras basically have a central hub, which holds all the settings”, Mr Johnson points out. “It’s the communication point for the Wi-Fi, so it can connect with a tablet. It is easy to connect the cameras and calibrate the settings, if necessary.”
We wanted to make this as simple as possible to remove as any risk of problems
“Having been involved in the precision farming industry for a long time, my experience is that complexity often leads to complications, that lead to problems and faults. We wanted to make this as simple as possible to remove as any risk of problems. But we also wanted to make fault finding simple, when there is a problem. The interface is simple as well. There are built-in diagnostic modes. It is easy to tell if a camera is online or offline for example.”
The SenseSpray technology utilises the grower’s existing guidance, rate and section controller technology. The patent pending SenseSpray system runs in parallel with the existing technology on the farm. It is designed to scale to fit the size of the farmer’s boom. SenseSpray can be fitted to a new sprayer or retrofitted to an existing sprayer.
Agtecnic will eventually look for markets overseas. “We’ve already had some interest from Europe and Canada, but until things settle down with Covid, we stay in Australia”, Mr Johnson emphasises. ”We are focused on Australia whilst scaling up production for worldwide distribution in coming seasons.”