Farmers could be spared a lot of work and expense – plus the environment could be spared a lot of harmful chemicals – if crops didn't have to be sprayed indiscriminately. The new plant-inspecting Solix robot was designed with those facts in mind.
Created by Canadian agri-tech company Solinftec, Solix will autonomously move back and forth through farmers' fields on four wheels.
As it does so, it will use onboard cameras and other sensors (along with AI-based software) to check the health of plants and assess their nutritional content, plus it will look for weeds and evidence of insect damage. Utilizing this data, it will also monitor the state of the entire field's ecosystem.
When a problem is spotted, its location within the field will be noted and reported to the farmer, along with suggestions on how it should be rectified. The farmer can then make a point of applying herbicide, fertilizer or extra water in that one location as needed, instead of having to keep their bases covered by treating the entire field.
Not only does this mean that farmers won't have to buy or apply nearly as much in the way of chemicals, but it also means that a much lower volume of chemicals will enter the environment. Additionally, by constantly keeping on top of crop health, it is hoped that yields will be improved.
The technical specifications of the Solix robot have yet to be announced, as it's still in development.
Plans call for the technology to be assessed at Stone Farms in Davidson, Saskatchewan, in partnership with the University of Saskatchewan. Assuming those trials go well, the robot should be commercially available for use in wheat crops in time for next year's growing season.