One of the newest developments in weed control is the Autonomous LaserWeeder, a robot that uses artificial intelligence and lasers to zap weeds growing among cash crops. Carbon Robotics unveiled the autonomous weeder in April of 2021, and went on to sell out of 2021 and 2022 models.
The LaserWeeder is a self-driving 80-inch wide machine that has a row of high-powered CO2 lasers that are targeted and controlled by high-resolution cameras. The cameras scan the field as the machine moves, and Carbon Robotics’ computer vision system uses AI to discern if the camera is seeing a crop or a weed.
If it’s a weed, the laser fires and explodes the plant cells, leaving the dead organic matter on the field to absorb back into the soil. The LaserWeeder can cover 15 to 20 acres per day, running at about 5 miles an hour on a 75-gallon diesel fuel tank.The LaserWeeder kills about 88% of weeds and hits about 1% of crops.
Paul Mikesell, the CEO and founder of Carbon Robotics, says as the machines are deployed more and scan more images, the accuracy rate will improve as the computer continues to learn what’s a weed and what’s a crop. Mikesell believes the LaserWeeder is a practical way to bring AI onto the farm with a great return on investment.
“With our system, you can get rid of all of your herbicides if you want to. Some folks will do a sort of a pre burndown before they plant or before the crops emerge, and then they'll bring us in once the crops start going, and then no herbicides from that point on. When you say how much am I saving on my weed control bills, just that cost difference alone, the machine pays for itself between 1 ½ to 3 years.”
Carbon Robotics is currently selling directly to farmers growing specialty crops like spinach, onions and sweet potatoes — with plans to expand its market, production and technology.
In September, Carbon Robotics announced that it secured $27 million in Series B financing. It intends to use the funding to scale production of the company’s products and establish regional sales and support for customers, among other things.
The September announcement also included this comment from Erik Benson, managing director of Voyager Capital, a company that invested in Carbon Robotics in the Series B financing round. He said Carbon Robotics has “the potential to be this millennium’s Deere and Company.”
To hear more about the LaserWeeder and the future of Carbon Robotics, listen to an extended interview with Paul Mikesell in this episode of the Precision Farming Dealer podcast.