US startup Tensorfield Agriculture is pioneering the commercial adoption of thermal micro dosing for weed control in vegetable crops with its machine Jetty.
Based on research from the University of California and the University of Bonn, Jetty eradicates weeds using only heated vegetable oil. The machine operates semi-autonomously, with each machine plus operator equal to the throughput of a 40-person hand crew, according to Tensorfield.
The Tensorfield team has spent the last two years testing and refining its precision thermal weeder, culminating in the design and build of a commercial unit. The company is now starting commercial operations in the USA. Jetty is included in Future Farming’s robot catalogue with many other robot propositions farmers can buy, lease or hire in 2024.
Jetty performs herbicide-free precision thermal weeding in high density row crops such as carrots and spring mix. It identifies weeds among crops, using computer vision. It then sprays a micro-dose of organic-approved high temperature vegetable oil onto the weeds with sub-cm precision to kill the weeds and allow crops to flourish.
According to Tensorfield, Jetty delivers the fastest, most cost-effective method of getting a precise lethal dose of heat energy into a weed, to kill the weed in a targeted fashion among post-emergent crop foliage.
Jetty has a 22kW onboard heating system to target weeds in a standard 80-inch bed at 1.2 mph. Onboard propane burners continuously heat a recirculating food-safe thermal fluid which heats edible canola oil at the point of deposition via 8 integrated heat exchanges per 80-inch bed.
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The machine has four independently driven and steered wheels, powered by 1.5kW brushless DC motors, planetary gear reduction and chain-sprocket final drive. It is able to turn on the spot and move sideways for easy end-of-row manoeuvrability.
Jetty uses propane plus a Lithium Iron Phosphate battery (LiFePO4) as an energy source. It has a target range of 10 acres on one fill of propane and vegetable oil. Jetty can cover one acre per hour. Tensorfield claims it can deliver growers up to 40% savings on weeding, compared to hand-weeding. Jetty is currently priced as a service: US $50 (€47.3) per acre plus US half of one cent per weed.