We Need More Robots On Farms – Meet the Weeder

The Lempert Report
May 21, 2021

The Autonomous Weeder can eliminate more than 100,000 weeds per hour

Vegetable farmer Shay Myers told the Seattle Times about his woes. "It's harder to find people to do that work (weeding) every single year.” Which is one of the major reasons that Carbon Robotics has just introduced the third generation of a smart farming robot that identifies weeds and then destroys them with high-power lasers – the Autonomous Weeder! The farming robot looks like a large cube on wheels. As it drives itself down rows of crops, its 12 cameras scan the ground. An onboard computer, powered by AI, identifies weeds, and the robot's carbon dioxide lasers then zap and kill the plants.

The Autonomous Weeder can eliminate more than 100,000 weeds per hour and weed 15 to 20 acres of crops in one day — for comparison, Myers said a laborer can weed about one acre of his onions per day. It kills weeds without harming soil or water. Weeds are a farmer’s nightmare. Weeds compete with crops for space, sunlight and importantly, the soil’s nutrients. Farm labor is a huge problem and as we witnessed during the pandemic, many of them became ill or just stopped going to work to avoid being exposed to the virus. Others, fearing the risk of deportation also did’t show up. The result is that many farmers’ crops sat rotting in the fields and had to be plowed under. Farm labor is a hard, low paying job, and frankly if we want to be able to feed our nation, we must move to more automated and robotic systems. Carbon Robotics says that its weeder has sold out for 2021 and it costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, but Farmer Myers feels that the investment is well worth it and will pay for itself in one to two years.

And for consumers, there is a huge benefit as well – the reduction of the use of chemicals and pesticides in our food supply.