Carbon Robotics is working on what may be the future of weed control in agriculture. They’re building a rectangular vehicle a little smaller than a compact sedan, which rolls across farmland.
While it’s moving, the vehicle shoots concentrated bursts of infrared light into the rows. Observers hear audible crackles and get the distinct smell of burning vegetation as weeds smolder next to unscathed crops.
Paul Mikesell, the founder of Carbon Robotics, says the unmanned Autonomous Laser Weeder covers 15-20 acres per day and kills up to 100,000 weeds an hour. The infrared lasers shoot from beneath the vehicle’s undercarriage. There’s no manual chopping crew, no soil disturbance beyond the wheel traction, and no herbicide use, an important fact given agriculture’s push toward sustainability.
“We spent almost three years designing a system that targets weeds on its own while rolling through a field,” Mikesell says. “It operated entirely on its own and separate from any human action.”
(From the National Association of Farm Broadcasters)