MIT alumnus-founded FarmWise uses autonomous machines to snip weeds while preserving crops, eliminating the need for herbicides.
There is a lot riding on farmers’ ability to fight weeds, which can strangle crops and destroy yields. California-based startup FarmWise, co-founded by Sebastien Boyer and Thomas Palomares, has developed autonomous weeding robots that use artificial intelligence (AI) to cut out weeds while leaving crops untouched. The company’s first robot, fittingly called the Titan — picture a large tractor that makes use of a trailer in lieu of a driver’s seat — uses machine vision to distinguish weeds from crops including leafy greens, cauliflower, artichokes, and tomatoes while snipping weeds with sub-inch precision. The company recently unveiled its newest robot, Vulcan, which is more lightweight and pulled by a tractor. The Titan was built to complement field workers’ efforts to grow and maintain crops. An operator directs it using an iPad, walking alongside the machine and inspecting progress. Both the Titan and Vulcan are powered by an AI that directs hundreds of tiny blades to snip out weeds around each crop. The Vulcan is controlled directly from the tractor cab, where the operator has a touchscreen interface Boyer compares to those found in a Tesla.
St., Salinas, CA
Herbicides are becoming less effective as weeds develop genetic resistance. The only alternative is to hire more workers, which is also becoming more difficult for farmers. AI-powered robots provide an alternate.
About 15 Titans have been roaming the fields of 30 large farms in California and Arizona for the last few years, providing weeding as a service while being directed by an iPad. The founders hope to leverage the data they’ve collected to further improve farming operations.
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