Over the past few years, technology and agriculture have grown closer together. Many people were skeptical about high-tech applications for farmers when ideas were first being pitched. Now, though, a multitude of startups in the area have shown that pairing technology with agriculture is not only possible but very beneficial.
One such startup is Bilberry. The French firm uses artificial intelligence (AI) and computer vision to spot weeds in growing fields. This makes it possible to spread herbicides more efficiently. In turn, the system helps farmers generate more profits and bigger crop yields.
The best part is that this technology is only starting to scratch the surface of what’s possible with AI. In the coming years, applications like this one will become far more popular in the agriculture industry.
AI Weed Killer
In the early days of agriculture tech, companies focused on helping farmers stop herbicide waste by using infrared to ensure it was only sprayed on “green” materials rather than dirt. Of course, this meant targeting both crops and weeds. Now, those companies are working to make the process more efficient by distinguishing weeds from crops.
Bilberry’s approach is powered by Nvidia’s Jetson edge AI platform. The company’s chief technology officer, Hugo Serrat, said in a recent press release, “Making the distinction between weeds and crops and acting in real-time accordingly—this is where everyone is fighting for—that’s the actual holy grail.”
The startup is currently focusing on making its AI tech work with corn and wheat fields. It estimates that farmers lose 15 to 20 percent of their crop yield each year due to ineffective weed treatment.
To address that, Bilberry built a system that attaches to the massive tractor booms used in the fields. It includes 16 cameras and Jetson TX2 modules to analyze fields at 17 frames per second. This allows the system to work in real-time as the tractor moves at speeds up to 15 miles per hour.
High Tech Yield
So, what’s the point of using cameras to look for weeds in real-time? Ultimately, the system is designed to let farmers apply herbicides more efficiently. That results in many benefits.
Serrat says, “You need to apply the right amount of herbicides to weeds—if you apply too little, the weed will keep growing and creating new seeds. Bilberry can do this at a rate of 242 acres per hour.”
The system allows farmers to use up to 92 percent less chemicals. Obviously, this has a huge impact on the bottom line since herbicides are expensive. More importantly, it spares the environment from the harmful effects of chemical runoff. By reducing the amount of herbicide being used, less of it ends up in groundwater supplies.
It’s also worth noting that the system allows the intended crops to grow better since they aren’t being blasted by harsh chemicals. The end result is a win-win for everyone involved.
Moving forward, approaches like this one will become even more important. As demand for food grows worldwide, farmers will need to find new approaches to increase their yield. Technology will continue to be an essential part of the agriculture industry in the coming years.