Robot in use: Farmdroid for seeding & weeding
"Organic farmers reap multiple benefits from a solar-powered planting and weeding robot"
Inter-row weeding, fulfilling demand
The robots hoe weeds within the rows, meaning between the individual plants, but they also do inter-row cultivation using a wire. This pares off weed sprouts 1 to 3 centimetres into the soil between the rows. The robot weighs substantially less than a tractor and equipment, i.e. less than 800 kilos, which keeps the soil’s micro-structures intact and eliminates tractor fumes.
“The sugar industry’s demand for organic sugar beets is rising dramatically because of the rising consumer demand for organic products. I’m experiencing that sugar refineries are very interested in the possibilities of automating my sector. Being one of the first to invest in automation will give me a strong position as an experienced robot-user in the years ahead,” Eberhard Weisskopf predicts.
In general, he sees great potential for agriculture in knowing exactly where crops are planted. He also thinks that conventional farmers can use this knowledge to significantly cut down on pesticide use by spot spraying, for instance.
Several other crops will be automated
The lessons learnt in the first year of automatic weed control in his beet fields are so satisfying that Eberhard Weisskopf is now considering whether to deploy his robot fleet in his rapeseed and onion fields as well, as they need to be weeded in early spring. Beetroots are another possibility, as are other crops that require inter-row and inter-plant weeding to get reasonable yields. Eberhard Weisskopf has a total of 700 hectares of organically cultivated farmland.
Eberhard Weisskopf implemented robotics technology on his farm in close collaboration with Solar Andresen, FarmDroid’s local distributor in North Germany, but he can also call FarmDroid’s direct hotline if the need arises.
As an organic farmer, Eberhard Weisskopf is concerned about ensuring sustainable farming operations. This is why an obvious benefit of FarmDroid is that its robots are solar-powered. In relatively clear weather, the four photovoltaic panels, comprising the robot’s ‘roof’, can generate up to 20 kWh a day.
“The sun enables the robots to move about powered solely by a climate-friendly, carbon-neutral fuel, and I can also lower my consumption of diesel fuel. In my view, technologies like FarmDroid’s are the future of agriculture. We have to streamline our operations, not least on organic farms, and as a business we can actually help prevent severe climate change as well. I believe that robotics technology will boost the proliferation of organic farming because it helps us work smarter without impacting the environment,” Eberhard Weisskopf says.