#NexusRobotics; #agBOTChallenge; #ThomasTrappenberg; #NovaScotia, #Canada
Ottawa, May 28 (Canadian-Media): Nexus Robotics, a technology startup based in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, won this month the weed-and-feed international competition at the agBOT Challenge, in Rockville, Ind., media reports said.
The autonomous machine, dubbed R2 Weed2 or Hal-Bot, uses artificial intelligence to distinguish between weeds and crops and is designed to both pluck weeds and spray herbicide,
"We want to get rid of the weed and keep the crop and even fertilize it. So one of the advancements … we made is vision systems can be better than humans at distinguishing them," said Thomas Trappenberg, part of the team behind the battery-powered robot.
Agriculture robot. Image credit: Wikipedia
A 1.5-metre square frame robot, with a central nozzle for spraying fertilizer or herbicide, has a cutting wheel to slice the weeds that have a less developed root system.
Teric Greenan, who grows vegetables on a farm in Lunenburg County in addition to his work with Nexus, came up with the idea, and hoped that the robot, with its super accuracy with where it is spraying, will be more cost-effective and less time consuming to farmers who would otherwise fight weeds with a combination of herbicides and manual labour.
"I think that our robot, it's going to have a really big part to play in integrated pest management and making sure that weeds don't become resistant to herbicides," said Greenan.
Jad Tawil, who writes the software, said it could operate with up to 99 percent accuracy if the plants were in a row.
Trappenberg said the startup's team worked 16-hour days, seven days a week for two months in preparation for the competition, where they competed with teams from large U.S. universities.
"I have to say, it was worth it," he said. "This gives us the encouragement to work even harder,,,showing that Nova Scotia can win a competition in North America, it … gives us the encouragement to work even harder."
This summer, the team would work with farmers, who would try out the prototype.
A second version of the design would also is being planned by the team which could be accessed to farmers by next year, with hopes of eventually selling it.
(Reporting by Asha Bajaj)