By Tom Collins
A new robot that can weed vegetable fields and is designed to replace migrant workers could be available for lease in Ontario next year.
Nova Scotia company Nexus Robotics has invented R2-Weed2, a machine designed to slowly drive over fields, recognize weeds and pluck them from the ground. Despite some media reports, it will not spray a herbicide.
The robots were tested in Nova Scotia last year and is going through a pilot project in Quebec this summer. Nexus CEO Teric Greenan said the robot could weed an average five acres a day, although weed density and weather would play a role. By comparison, a farm worker can weed one-third of an acre per day.
Greenan, who ran a small vegetable farm in Nova Scotia for three years, came up with the idea when speaking with other farmers.
“I thought the whole migrant labour thing was a bit ridiculous,” he said. “At the time, we were still importing people from Central America to pull weeds out of our fields and it just seemed so archaic.”
The machine runs on four lithium-ion batteries that need to swapped out every 12 hours. No one needs to watch guard over the robots either. The machines are connected to the internet via cell phone towers, and will shut down their motors if they lose cell phone or GPS connection, or if there’s a mechanical issue.
While the robot could be used for corn and soybean crops, “it’s not as economical due to the fact that glyphosate can be used on those crops, which is a much more effective herbicide than is used in vegetable production or organic production,” Greenan said.