Robot field weeding
As Iowa farmer, Jeff Jorgenson, complained about his weed problem: ?A weed in the field?s going to take moisture, going to take sunlight, nutrients away from the plants surrounding it. And that?s why we have to keep clean fields.? Keeping clean fields (weed free) is farmer shorthand for one helluva lot of work! A small but growing agribotics startup in France, Naio Technologies, has figured out a solution for Jorgenson and millions of farmers like him using its newly minted Oz field weeding robot. The Oz weeding agribot autonomously navigates between rows of crops using laser and camera guidance. Oz recognizes different types of culture and moves accordingly eliminating weeds via chemical-free, mechanical weeding (hoeing). It also doubles as a carry all transport for toting supplies or during harvest. As Naio?s press release explains the company?s founders and their motivation for developing their Oz robot: ?In 2011, Gaetan Severac and Aymeric Barthes, two robotics engineers, founded the start-up in the French city of Toulouse. They set out to create agricultural robots with a triple goal: reduce farmer workload, limit the impact on the environment and increase farmer revenue. The first robots were successfully marketed in 2015 and Naio Technologies plans to double its sales in 2016.?
Investment money is now agreeing with them as the Emertec and CapAgro investment funds took out a $3.2 million chance that the young company can sell way more than the 30 Oz robots already at work on small farms, mainly in France. Previous to the recent Emertec and CapAgro funding, Naio received support from Bank BPI France, BNP Paribas and Credit Cooperatif via loans and refundable cash as well as $793K from the crowdfunding platform WiSeed. Jean-Baptiste Cuisinier, President of the CapAgro board, explains his participation: ?Our investment in Naio Technologies is fully consistent with our long-time strategy to promote a more efficient type of agriculture that requires less farm inputs. The goal is to improve food quality, respect the environment and enable better wages for farmers.? Chemical-free weeding in fact has been getting lots of interest lately, especially from those concerned about herbicide-resistant weeds. A recent NPR news program explains: ?Millions of acres of farmland in the U.S. have been affected by herbicide-resistant weeds, rendering some fields unable to be farmed. And the problem is spreading, which could mean more lost crops and lost profits. The EPA approved a new herbicide to be used with USDA-approved genetically modified seeds, but opponents have sued, warning it could harm the environment and human health.? Severac and Barthes may have found themselves a big winner in Oz.
About Naio Technologies: Naio Technologies has received the 2015 Mechatronics Award for the most promising start-up, as well as the Special Jury Award at the French Collaborative Robotics Contest 2015 and, recently, the CleanTech Republic Award in the context of the COP21 climate change conference. They also work with Bonduelle, the world?s leading manufacturer of ready-to-use vegetables, on various trials for this innovative weeding solution.