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Coming Soon To A Field Near You: A Robot Weed Whacker

Article written by guest writer Kecia Lynn

What's the Latest Development?

Blue River Technology, a Silicon Valley startup, has received funding that will let it bring to market a highly specialized robot that kills weeds using cameras and a set of mathematical algorithms that sound relatively simple: If it's a plant, and the plant is a weed, then kill it (in this case via an injection of fertilizer). Moving at one mile an hour, the machine is accurate to within one-quarter of an inch. The company wants to get it to an accuracy rate of within one-half of an inch at 3 miles an hour.

What's the Big Idea?

The robot is able to simulate human behavior to the point where weedkilling chemicals aren't necessary, making it ideal for organic farms and dangerous to the multibillion-dollar pesticide industry. For better or worse, it will be a while before these robots take over agriculture. Each robot is programmed to kill a certain set of weeds for a certain type of crop; new algorithms would need to be created to identify different weeds and crops. However, "with he growing number of people to feed, and the threat of pesticides...figuring out a cheaper and less chemically intense method of farming is an area where the brains behind machine learning can make the world a better place."

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com 

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