Skip to content

Farmers can now buy robotic weeder

The artificial intelligence-based platform was originally marketed as a service, but the new generation will be for sale.
The Vulcan uses computer vision and robotic cutting arms to reach in between vegetable plants and till weeds with sub-inch accuracy.

WESTERN PRODUCER — FarmWise has drastically changed the design of its robotic weeding platform and its business model with the launch of its Vulcan three-point-hitch weeder.

The American start-up originally designed the robotic Titan FT35 to scan vegetable crop rows with artificial intelligence (AI), which decides what plants should be mechanically eliminated with its weeding arms.

The company originally sought to develop a fleet of FT35s that would be offered to vegetable growers as a service, as opposed to selling the robots to farmers.

However, producers will be able to purchase the Vulcan, which uses the same plant detection algorithms and weeding arms developed for the Titan FT35.

Because the Vulcan is a three-point hitch platform, it is cheaper to produce than the Titan FT35, which will not be produced after 2023.

The cheaper price point will help the company compete with other AI-based weeding products that have come to market over the past few years.

Tjarko Leifer, who was recently appointed FarmWise’s chief executive officer, said the company’s technology is now mature, and allowing farmers to buy it made sense because of farms’ workload demands.

“They (farmers) have their own labour crews they use for baseline load, and I think we’re going to have customers that are interested in buying their own equipment because they can incorporate it into their base operations. Then they may still use our service for some of their peak periods,” Leifer said.

“They want to feel like they can better control their operation by owning the equipment with their teams. We also see this as a way of being able to accelerate our ability to expand into more hands because with the sales model we will be able to enter markets and support more customers.”

The Vulcan tills between vegetable crop rows and senses the location of each plant within the row.

The system’s computer vision has been refined by millions of images in FarmWise’s catalogue, which enable the Vulcan to remove weeds while leaving the crop unscathed.

The robotic arms swing in to till between the plants within the row, and operators can set how close they want the arms to get to the plants with sub-inch accuracy.

Operators will also be able to set how deep they want the Vulcan to till.

Single-bed and a triple-bed models are available, and both require a Category II three-point hitch and a tractor with around 150 horsepower.

Each bed is 80 to 84 inches and can accommodate one to six crop rows.

The single bed model weighs in at slightly less than 3,500 pounds, which allows it to conduct weeding operations in wetter conditions than the Titan.

Adjustments to the weeding blades can be made using the in-cab monitor.

Operators can monitor the weeder’s progress by looking back over their shoulder, but few adjustments are necessary once the parameters are set correctly.

The Vulcan comes with a lighting system that enables it to operate at night.

FarmWise now has a tele-operations program that offers live remote performance monitoring and support, while software updates are also available, including upgraded crop models.

The weeding arms can be added or removed in around 20 minutes when moving into different crops and row configurations.

The Vulcan can be used for around 20 vegetable crops, including lettuce and broccoli.

FarmWise launched the platform during the World Ag Expo and made the event’s list of top 10 new products.