Technology has evolved agricultural processes, leading to cheaper and more sustainable practices. Greenfield Robotics is one company that uses technology on its mission to help farmers grow food with fewer chemicals. Rather than using the traditional process of applying herbicides and tilling the soil to control weeds, the company uses a robot fleet to carry out the task.
The CEO of Greenfield Robotics, Clint Brauer, took an interest in both farms and technology at a very young age. He grew up on a Cheney, Kansas farm with his parents, and as a teenager, he went to the big city and dove deep into the digital and technological world. Several years later, he returned to the farm with a precise determination: to show other ways to produce grains on a large scale without using harmful agrochemicals.
Brauer knew that he wanted to achieve this goal by direct seeding, as it has many benefits on the soil, fertility, microorganisms, and sustainability of resources. However, it was difficult to eliminate weeds without disturbing the ground, and he saw the reliance on chemicals that comes with direct seeding. He soon realized that without these, and with how physically difficult and expensive, it would be to control them by hand, the solution would unquestionably come from robotics.
In collaboration with his friend Steven Gentner, the founder of RoboRealm, they built a robot that mows down broadleaf weeds, particularly pigweed. The duo taught the robots how to identify rows and distinguish between the weed or the crop. The 140lbs (63 kg) robots can go out in muddy conditions, including 3 inches of rain, to mow weeds, while a traditional spray rig would likely get stuck in the mud.
Greenfield’s robots look like thin and upright vacuums; their small size allows them to weave through crops easily. For widespread weed control, each robot is equipped with a sensor to sense depth and crop rows. The robot’s software combines this ability with consistent dropped row data and a real-time GPS kinematic map.
These robots function as tiny lawnmowers that remove weeds as they move up and down crop rows across the field. Greenfield Robotics plans to use a fleet of ten robots to take on 100 acres per day.