Autonomous weed-sprayer frees up farmers

SUBSCRIBE to our fortnightly e-newsletter to receive more stories like this. The new WEEDit PhantomDrive, launched in June 2017 in Queensland, promises to save farmers time, tedium and costly chemical inputs.

A new, autonomous precision-weed-spraying kit, launched at Queensland’s CRT Farmfest in June 2017, promises to frees farmers from the tedious, time-consuming task of spraying chemicals on crops.

Globally-successful WEEDit, an optical-spot-spray technology developed in Germany and adapted for use in Australian conditions by rhe Toowoomba, Queensland arm of global crop-spraying-equipment manufacturer Croplands, is already being deployed by some of Australia’s most successful broadacre farmers to boost the precision and efficiency of herbicide applications.

Recently, Croplands joined forces with another Australian manufacturer, autonoTRAC, to develop a ‘smart’, self-guided platform for precision weed-spraying.

Their aim in developing the WEEDit PhantomDrive kit was to enable autonomous weed-spraying, at a higher level of precision and within a shorter time frame than was currently possible – “a factor that will contribute to improved fatigue management and monetary savings associated with labour costs”, Croplands’ northern regional manager Jeremy Rennick told The Land.

The new kit promises to save farmers time, labour, chemicals and costs, improving on-farm efficiency and productivity and reducing over-spraying and potentially harmful runoff.Croplands' WEEDit spot sprayer precision ag tool in action: its infra-red sensors work even better after dark.

What is the WEEDit technology?

WEEDit technology, initially developed in Europe, identifies weeds via infra-red sensors that recognise the active chlorophyll present in all living plants, then send signals to a solenoid, which in turn activates the appropriate spray nozzle as the equipment passes over the target weed, delivering herbicide precisely where it’s required and minimising the amount inadvertently sprayed onto surrounding areas.

The WEEDit precision technology works by day or night, and is both accurate and rapid, allowing the operator to cover large tracts of land in less time than it would take with regular sprayers

Australian crop-spraying equipment expert Croplands adopted the WEEDit technology more than five years ago, and have been progressively adapting the technology to suit Australian conditions. Croplands has engineered spray systems that maximise the efficiency of the WEEDit sensors and can withstand the harsh environmental conditions often experienced on broadacre farms Down Under.

By targeting weeds precisely and directing nozzles accordingly, WEEDit precision sprayers enable herbicide savings of up to 90 percent, claims Croplands, representing substantial savings on input costs and significantly reducing the impact of chemicals on agricultural soils.

Check out this video of the WEEDit system in action.

What is PhantomDrive?

According to autonoTRAC owner/director and PhantomDrive creator Luke Schelosky, autonoTRAC’s PhantomDrive is a genuinely useful self-drive system tailored for the task.

“We understood that an autonomous tractor by itself is simply a novelty, so we had to provide a truly integrated system that not only gives excellent autonomous performance but also monitors and works in conjunction with the implement,” Schelosky told The Land

“Things like an on-board weather station, SMS warning system for both the tractor and implement, tyre-pressure monitoring and the ability to successfully steer around obstacles in the paddock were all critical in making the system a success.”

How can WEEDit PhantomDrive benefit growers’ bottom lines?

The Croplands-autonoTRAC WEEDit PhantomDrive kit has a number of useful time-saving, cost-reducing, connectivity and safety features.

The kit can be mounted on any current-model tractor with continuous variable transmission (CVT/VVT/IVT). Weather permitting, the kit can be set to operate 24-7, maximising the number of hectares sprayed per day. Alternately, you can set the WEEDit PhantomDrive to cover the terrain more slowly, improving the precision of the application.

Either way, the autonomous drive and precision spraying tool mean there’s no need for a human operator. “The platform can be accessed remotely on any smart phone, tablet or computer with internet access,” Rennick told The Land. “It monitors both the tractor and sprayer, and any issues with either will be alerted to immediately through the warning system.

“It has weather station capabilities for monitoring environmental conditions at the site of application, and the system will stop operation if preset weather parameters are triggered.”

The WEEDit PhantomDrive also incorporates a collision avoidance system, virtually eliminating the risk of on-farm accidents involving humans, animals or other hazardous objects.

The new kit provides impressive weed-targeting ability and improved efficiency, and frees farmers from a tedious, chemically hazardous task.

Watch the official video trailer of the WEEDit PhantomDrive below.

Further information

The WEEDit PhantomDrive is available commercially from Croplands Equipment Pty Ltd. For more information, download the product brochure or contact Jeremy Rennick at Croplands on 0409 065 994 or sales@croplands.com.au. To find a dealer near you, click here

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