In 2017, three young Canadian entrepreneurs embarked on a mission to help vegetable farmers with their weeding problems. Their weeding robot La Chèvre (goat in English), pulls out weeds that are very close to crops.
A new prototype hybrid robot from Canadian start-up Nexus Robotics should be able to operate fully autonomously 24 hours a day. Robot La Chèvre (French for goat) is able to recognise crops at all stages of growth. It uses AI to differentiate between weeds and crops and then pulls out weeds that are very close to the crops without damaging the crops.
It identifies what is a weed and what is a crop and currently picks and removes over 95% of the weeds according to 2020 field tests results. The intention is to ultimately totally replace hand weeding.
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Multiple RTK-gps sensors provide position and orientation for navigation while the robot is scanning the underlying crops and weeds with cameras and depth sensors. With calibration methods, the camera and depth sensor measurements are fused by using SLAM methods. SLAM (Simultaneous Localisation And Mapping) lets you build a map and localise a vehicle in that map at the same time enabling vehicles to map out unknown environments. This local map holds the coordinates of the plants.
The sensor measurements are also used to classify plants as crops or weeds. With the classification and location of the weeds, mounted robotic arms with delta mechanisms actuate to the weeds in the constructed map and then pull them from the ground using grippers.
According to Nexus Robotics, La Chèvre is the only robot that is able to remove weeds directly next to crops. Weeds that normally remain untouched by other robots who cultivate or spot spray.