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Weed-Killing Robot Could Put Giant Dent in Herbicide Use

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By Deena Shanker, Revmodo.com

Farmers that don’t want to use herbicides for weed control are in for some good news. The time consuming, physically demanding job of weed pulling might be on its way out thanks to a new invention from Blue River Technology: a weed killing robot.

Non-organic farmers typically rely on herbicides to control their weed problems. Ingestion of these man-made chemicals has been linked to autism, ADHD, cancer, and other side effects, making them bad for consumers, bad for the farmers using them, and bad for the general health of our food system and our country. But because they have been the only alternative to manually pulling weeds, farmers often don’t see another option.

Blue River’s weed killing robot could change that industry practice and reduce herbicide use in the U.S. by more than 250 million pounds a year. The wheeled robot starts its job by scanning the ground with cameras.  It then uses algorithms, to differentiate between good and bad plants.  Once it finds a bad one (re: a weed), it injects it with enough fertilizer to kill it.  The technology is about 98 or 99 percent accurate.

Right now the robot is only “trained” for lettuce, but with the company’s announcement this week that it has raised $3.1 million from investors, it is looking to commercialize its machines and bring them to the broader market. “We intend to invest the proceeds of this round in growing our engineering team and accelerating our new product roadmap,” said Jorge Heraud, co-founder and CEO of Blue River Technology.

“With global population expected to increase to 9.5 billion by 2050, increasing food production in a sustainable way is going to be one of the great challenges of this century,” said Vinod Khosla, founder of Khosla Ventures. The company hopes to take on this challenge head on, and with its team of engineers now backed by millions of dollars, there’s little reason to think it won’t succeed.

Featured image via Thomas Bethge/Shutterstock

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