Automating weed control for farmers and food security

What’s the design in a nutshell?
FarmDroid FD20 is the world’s first fully automated robot that both sows and provides mechanical weed control. Driven by the power of four solar panels, it not only does 24 hours of environment-friendly farming at a time but is also CO2-neutral! With its high-precision GPS technology, the FarmDroid FD20 does its day job without the need for monitoring and lowers costs for farmers and growers alike.

Why is it needed?
Automating tough and costly labour makes sense for the farmers, but controlling and eliminating weed benefits us all. Depending on the crop, losses of yield due to weed vary from anywhere between 19% in wheat to 36% in peanuts. Weed is considered to have the highest potential effect on crop loss and is an undeniably important biotic constraint to agriculture in both developing and developed countries. 

So today, many farmers utilise herbicides and pesticides to slow weeds, which only results in more resistant and robust weeds spreading. And in ecological farming, there’s a dependency on workers to do manual weed control, which means both tiring and costly labour. 

In short, sustainable farming has yet to find an impactful solution for people, profit and the planet to manage weed. There’s been a need for alternatives to herbicides and tough manual labour and the FarmDroid FD20 is one of those.

How does it work?
Even though it was originally designed for sugarbeets, the FarmDroid FD20 can be customised according to row distance, plant distance and sowing depth to fit different sorts of crops. With precise weed control, it allows for optimal growth and a bigger yield of food. And as it drives through the rows, its lightweight ‘900 kg’ physique makes sure the soil’s microstructure stays intact.

And it remembers too! Due to the precision technology, the robot knows the exact position of every individual crop during sowing and can therefore start the weeding process at a very early stage, even before the crops start germinating. This ensures that weeds are kept down and don’t get the opportunity to grow big.

"Weed is considered to have the highest potential effect on crop loss."

How does it improve life?
As our population grows, we need more hectares to grow our food in. We’ve all become more aware of food waste in our own kitchens and grocery stores, but the loss of perfectly fine food also happens even before it's fully grown. Successful weed control means we’re potentially saving millions of crops that can help reduce hunger worldwide.

What’s the impact to date or projected impact?
Founded in 2018, the Danish-based company is still at the beginning of its journey to impact. But in the spring of 2020, FarmDroid has already sowed and cleaned more than 1,500 hectares in large parts of Europe and has secured multiple international distributors.