The nutrient content of our vegetables is down 40% over the last two decades and our soil health is suffering due to increasingly harsh herbicide use, according to Carbon Robotics founder Paul Mikesell. And farmers are increasingly concerned about the long-term health impacts of continually spraying chemicals on their fields.
But not weeding will cost half your crop, killing profitability.
A self-driving farm robot that kills 100,000 weeds an hour … by laser.
“We wanted [to] figure out if there’s a better way we could do this.” Mikesell told me on a recent episode of the TechFirst podcast. “What we discovered relatively early on is that through the use of high-powered energy systems — so, lasers, which is essentially a way of delivering targeted energy — we can kill these weeds. And we can do it with the use of our computer vision and deep learning expertise … which allows us to in real time identify what’s a weed, what’s a crop … and kill the weeds. Get rid of them.”
Poor food quality is a significant problem.
But poor soil health is a potentially existential problem: without the ability to produce food, even a rich, modern, technological society will crash.
The American Society for Horticultural Science says that evidence points “toward declines of some nutrients in fruits and vegetables available in the United States and the United Kingdom,” and Scientific American says that “crops grown decades ago were much richer in vitamins and minerals than the varieties most of us get today.”