It’s still a research project, but Austrian company SPL (Service für Präzisions-Landwirtschaft) is willing to come over and test its autonomous laser weeder Jäti in your field and crops.
Jäti is an electrically driven autonomous robot on small rubber tracks with a changeable track and row width. It is equipped with a high-resolution camera that pictures a 30cm (11.8”) wide band of the field and crop.
Using image processing and machine learning algorithms, individual weeds in the row and between the plants are identified by Jäti and destroyed by using a laser. Jäti does all this in just one go and as soon as the batteries run out of power, the robot drives to its base station to autonomously change its batteries as well.
The concept was especially developed for the use in carrot fields of one of its developers in Austria. According to them, Jäti is most effective at the early stages of plant development, before the carrot (or other) plants reach their four-leaf stage. This way, the robot is most successful in the period directly after drilling until the crop is closed.
This primarily has to do with the time effort and energy requirements of the laser system. After handling the small weeds with Jäti, the farmer should take over weed control by for instance mechanical weeding. According to SPL, Jäti takes care of the tough part of weed control after which the farmer can tackle emerging weeds more easily.
Jäti is still in development and not (yet) for sale. SPL is planning on renting Jäti and an operator to farmers as a service. The company will charge farmers based on the volume of weed plants destroyed and says its pricing will be at 85 to 90% of the cost of manual weeding. On its German website, interested farmers can report their test fields to SPL to try their Jäti robot on.