Bosch start-up Deepfield Robotics has developed a new machine that can analyse and weed crops. The technology, named Bonirob, will make plant breeding more efficient and reduce the environmental impact of crop farming.
Bonirob, which is the size of a compact car, can monitor how well new crop varieties grow, whether they are resistant to pests and how much fertiliser and water they need. Currently, this is a painstaking manual process done by plant scientists in a laboratory.
Bonirob can distinguish between crops and weeds based on the shape of their leaves and can eliminate weeds mechanically, rather than with weed killer. Unwanted plants are simply rammed into the ground with a rod. Using machine learning, Bosch researchers highlight weeds in a large number of image files so that Bonirob can accurately identify them.
“Over time, based on parameters such as leaf colour, shape, and size, Bonirob learns how to differentiate more and more accurately between the plants we want and the plants we don’t want,” the general manager of Deepfield Robotics, Professor Amos Albert, said.
In the coming years, more efficient plant breeding will play an important role in increasing agricultural output. It’s estimated that yields will have to increase by three per cent each year to keep up with population growth.
Bonirob is the product of a public joint project funded by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture that saw experts from Bosch, Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences and the agricultural machinery manufacturer Amazone join forces.