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Mobility Planet Care

104: Drones for agriculture

Problem:

Globally, farmers spend over $40 billion per year on pesticides and herbicides (weed killers) to avoid an estimated total of $200 billion in crop loss annually caused by pests. About 200,000 suicides each year are indirectly attributed to pesticide poisoning, almost all in developing countries.

Solution:

Precision-spraying drones


Farmers are using infra-red camera carrying drones to pinpoint problem spots with insects and aphids in vast fields and ranchlands. This is based on the mapping, another drone then drops a ‘cocktail’ of predatory insects, transported in a sock attached the underbelly of the drone and containing a mixture of vermiculite and insects onto grape vines and citrus trees to combat pests. By focalizing pest control, they prevent spread and save money.

After a successful joint venture, in January of 2018 SkySquirrel Technologies and VineView Scientific Aerial Imaging merged to form VineView. VineView drones can check 50 acres of vineyards in 24 minutes for telltale signs of mold, bacteria or other diseases.

The system is used in two of the world’s top wine regions – California and France.

For herbicide-free weedkilling, in 2010 Gaëtan Séverac, PhD student in robotics teamed up with Aymeric Barthès, one of his classmates at the Institut Méditerranéen d’Etude et Recherche en Informatique et Robotique (IMERIR) to develop an all-terrain weeding robot.

OZ, their prototype used a satellite positioning algorithm with a precision of 4 cm called PPP-CNES, (PPP meaning Punctual Positioning Specific).

In 2011 Séverac and Barthès founded their startup, Naïo Technologies in Toulouse. Soon after, field trials were carried out on two vegetable farms and a vineyard in the Occitania region.

From 2015, Naïo Technologies organised a « Move Your Robot » national contest opened to engineering colleges and universities, with the objective of improving the OZ guidance programs.

For example, in 2016, participants proposed a power supply solution with a solar panel adaptable to the robot, a touch-screen human-machine interface, a soil analysis laboratory embedded on the robot, a voice guidance system and a gun noise to scare birds.

By 2016, a growing number of OZ weedkillers were being used by customers anxious to get away from products like Monsanto’s Roundup (glyphosate).

Naïo next produced TED, a vine-straddling robot weedkiller, trialled by Bernard Magrez up and down the vines of his Château Fombrauge (Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Classé), then by Philippe de Rothschild on his vineyard.

Measuring 1m80 wide by 2m high, equipped with a GPS, the electric 4WD TED is able to leaves the wine warehouse to go directly to the plot, programmable to work according to the weather, and to make several passes.

Naïo Technologies’ next machine was Dino, a straddle robot for the mechanical weeding of vegetable plantations. It is particularly suitable for salad crops, which it weeds mechanically and autonomously thanks to its hoeing and guiding tools. Bob, the fourth option runs on caterpillar tracks.

In December 2018 the fourth FIRA International Forum of Agricultural Robotics was held over two days at the Diagora center in Labège. Organized by Naïo-Technologies, it hosted more than 800 delegates from around the world. This sector is evolving, with projects of all shapes and sizes.

What you can do: Tell local farmers about drones.

Discover solution 105: Batteries in a shipping container

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