Doing more with less is one of the key challenges facing agribusiness. To meet the challenge of feeding an additional two billion mouths by 2050, the industry needs to exploit new technologies.
That’s why we decided to create a targeted crop sprayer to apply chemicals only where they’re needed. The idea was to achieve the same precision dispense as inkjet print heads – but over half a metre rather than just a few millimetres.
We used a fast-acting valve set in a swivelling head to give precise control of the droplet size and get under plant leaves.
A camera mounted on the sprayer's boom identifies the target using shape and colour, and tracks it using probabilistic programming to work out where to aim and when to fire.
The targeting calculations have to take into account things like the speed of the tractor in relation to the target, and the distance the droplet has to travel. Add in the complexities of gravity and air resistance and it’s an interesting challenge.
The technology can identify and target a specific leaf or bug – even when farm machinery is moving at speeds of more than 25mph.
By targeting only specific foreign leaves or pests, the amount of chemicals dispensed is dramatically reduced, with drift and run-off virtually eliminated. The reduction of run-off is particularly crucial for the environment as it helps prevent ground water pollution by chemical pesticides.
Alongside the demand for increased food production, environmental and economic factors are driving a need to cut the amount of chemicals used on crops. Our technology has the potential to save farmers money, as well as helping to protect the environment.