Artificial intelligence-powered robots to bolster weed control

Zach RelphCountryman
Cameron Leeson, founder and chief executive of thingc Robotics, at TECHSPO last week.
Camera IconCameron Leeson, founder and chief executive of thingc Robotics, at TECHSPO last week. Credit: Zach Relph

The founder of Melbourne start-up thingc Robotics says small artificial intelligence-powered robots could improve weed control at WA farms.

Cameron Leeson founded thingc Robotics in 2016 in a bid to create a “workforce on demand” for orchards, vineyards and weed management in pastures.

Mr Leeson showcased the “simple and robust” organic weeding robot he is developing at last Thursday’s TECHSPO at the Katanning Research Facility.

While noting it was much smaller than traditional machines on farms, Mr Leeson said the robot could remove challenges associated with operating high-tech equipment.

“Artificial intelligence is a key part of our work... it is a key aspect of the future,” he said.

“Our focus has been on how do we use this in the field? The key is autonomous navigation and helping our machine become smarter and not reliant on GPS.

“People look at the small machine and say ‘this is never going to work on broadacre, we’re used to massive machines’, but that’s not necessarily the case.

“This is low cost, people could afford to have several of these machines and one person can operate a fleet of them.”

Mr Leeson displayed one of thingc Robotics’ prototypes at during the second day of TECHSPO.

The innovator said AI would be crucial to the product’s development, allowing farmers to use the machine for weed management.

“Because we’ve been looking at spot spraying and mechanical weeding tools, crop and weed differentiation has been a key part of our AI,” Mr Leeson said.

“In the future we see this as a great tool for pest and disease control in the field and even yield estimation.”

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