INNOVATION

AgBots Are Taking Over Farms And They're Awesome

Next level weed whacking.

21/10/2016 5:48 PM AEDT | Updated 21/10/2016 9:30 PM AEDT
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Agbot ll is an agricultural robot designed and built at QUT.

First Peter Overton says computers have taken over the humans. Now, the robots are have taken over the weeds.

It has been dubbed the Agbot ll. Think whipper snipper on crack. It's a robotic weed slayer, designed to detect and classify weeds and then kill them either mechanically or chemically.

Why is it a big deal? It could save Australia's farming sector 1.3 billion a year.

The agricultural robot has been designed and built by the innovators at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) with the support of the Queensland Government. The creators say it could reducing the costs of weeding crops by around 90 per cent.

The treatment is slow and localised. It is very different from the large machines used to chemically treat weeds on farms.Professor Perez

Weeds are becoming increasingly immune to chemicals, which is one of the key problems facing the agricultural industry.

Professor Tristan Perez is the leader of QUT's agricultural robotics program and says the Agbot ll could be the solution.

"The cutting edge robotic vision gives Agbot II the ability to spot-spray selected weed species and use mechanical tools to remove other weeds species that are herbicide resistant," said Professor Tristan Perez.

"To date, we have concentrated on the three weeds that are relevant to Queensland -- volunteer cotton, sow thistle and wild oats -- and the vision system operated with 99 percent accuracy in the classification of the correct species based on the images collected by the robot cameras."

More intuitive than Costa Georgiadis, the Agbott ll's vision system can identify weeds and decide in real time how to remove the weed. Chemically, mechanically or thermally.

Though the AgBot does use chemicals, Professor Perez told The Huffington Post Australia the machine would contribute to reducing the environmental footprint of using herbicides.

"The treatment is slow and localised. It is very different from the large machines used to chemically treat weeds on farms," Professor Perez said.

The robotics professor said the AgBot ll could help mitigate "herbicide drift", when climate conditions cause "off target contamination".

The robot is part of the Strategic Investment in Farm Robotics, a program co-funded by the Queensland Government, through the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

You don't have to be a big farm to get in on the robotic action.

Check out FarmBot Genius, it is an open source home farming machine. It will let you grow your own food, without the anxiety of killing everything you plant. You can tell a robot what's there and let it do the rest.


Farmbot.io

I, for one, welcome our robotic weed slaying over-lords.

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