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Robotics Technology

Man Finally Makes the Weed-Removing Robot 258

Posted by samzenpus
from the it-only-listens-to-reggae dept.
Roland Piquepaille writes "According to the Ludington Daily News, Michigan, Danish agricultural engineers have built a robot to help farmers with weeds. The Hortibot is about 3-foot-by-3-foot, is self-propelled, and uses global positioning system (GPS). It can recognize 25 different kinds of weeds and eliminate them by using its weed-removing attachments. It's also very environmentally friendly because it can reduce herbicide usage by 75 percent. But so far, it's only a prototype and the Danish engineers need to find a manufacturer for distribution."
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Man Finally Makes the Weed-Removing Robot

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  • by blool (798681) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @08:42PM (#19749489)
    I for one, welcome our weed killing friends... As long as we remain friends.
    • Well we are one step closer to having robot overlords, we are now equipping autonomous robots with flame throwers!
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by HanzoSpam (713251)
        Well we are one step closer to having robot overlords, we are now equipping autonomous robots with flame throwers!

        Well, I initially misread the caption as Man Finally Makes Weed-Smoking Robot...

        Maybe I was closer to the truth than I thought...

        Hey, Tin Man - got a light?
        • by init100 (915886)

          Well, I initially misread the caption as Man Finally Makes Weed-Smoking Robot...

          And I misinterpreted the title as a robot designed to search for and destroy Cannabis fields. Unfortunately, it turned out that this robot is just designed to eliminate ordinary weeds from fields of useful crops.

          • by arivanov (12034)
            There is no need to build a robot with identification capability for that. Cannabis fields can be identified trivially on aerial and space photos taken in the near infraread provided that you have relatively accurate temperature and time of day data for the time the picture was taken.
            The only reason it is still around as a mass drug crop is that governments need a scarecrow for various varieties of "war of drugs".
            By the way, flamethrowers will not help either. As the ifor troops in Afganistan learned it do
    • I for one, welcome our weed killing friends...,/blockquote>

      I wonder how this robot classifies Roland Piquepaille?

    • by transporter_ii (986545) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @09:20PM (#19749801) Homepage
      What would be even cooler, would be a weed growing robot. And if they come up with this, I think a fitting name would be Bender.

      Transporter_ii
      • by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @09:51PM (#19749975)
        What would be even cooler, would be a weed growing robot.

        That would be awesome... if the cops catch your robot tending to the weed it can be programmed to say uhh I forgot who I'm growing this hash for man I have only so much RAM to devote to remembering things and I just can't remember who programmed me to grow all this sticky bud and there's nothing the pigs can do because your robot will be programmed to enjoy prison and be willing to spend years there in standby mode to conserve battery life but if the grower is some guy you'd have to promise him that you'll commute his sentence so he can perjure himself all he wants for you knowing you'll eventually bail him out... but under the existing system you can't do that unless you're the president who must have access to a mean supply of weed because you can see how worried he's been looking lately.
      • The cops would become suspicious when they saw the extension cord for the growlight hidden inside of him.
    • by Valacosa (863657) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @09:25PM (#19749841)
      It's a good thing that humanity is a virus, not a weed.
      • Agent Smith has an extremely poor understanding of both Biology and Computer Science. Also dramatic irony, considering his condition in the final two "We wrote these while high, aren't they awesome" films...
    • by IdleTime (561841) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @09:39PM (#19749935) Journal
      Here I am, thinking about a whole different type of weed and hoping on cheaper buds...
    • by Brickwall (985910)
      Wait a minute.. wasn't this article posted by the Luddite Times?
    • Surely we can teach these things to recognize other things! Slow drivers! Stupid people! Luddites! Conservatives!
    • The new hortibot looks suspiciously similar to a remote controlled lawnmoder that tragically killed a danish gardener 2 months ago. Do we really want to add autonomous control to that machine?
      http://www.engadget.com/2007/05/31/robot-lawnmower -kills-danish-man-begins-resistance/ [engadget.com]
      http://www.hortibot.dk/index.html [hortibot.dk]
      • It is not suspiciously similar but similar:

        From the hortibot site:
        "Illustration of the synergy obtained by combining the commercial remote controlled Spider (top left) with the autonomous AgRobot research platform (top left) from Aarhus University, Institute of Agricultural Engineering, Research Centre Bygholm."

        and the lawnmower was a Spider.
  • by wawannem (591061) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @08:43PM (#19749491) Homepage
    I am going to hunt this thing down and destroy every last ounce of it's evil metal body...

    Right after I get up off the couch
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @08:49PM (#19749523)
    I'm just curious as to how it works. Anyone have pictures?

    They say it identifies 25 types of weeds but at what accuracy? I would think accuracy is more important than total number of detectable weeds. If it misidentified your crop as weed you might lose a lot. Imagine coming home one day and it has pulled out or burned your entire crop and it just sits there with a grin.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Walt Dismal (534799)
      In the fullness of time, iRobot will no doubt introduce a robot that can remove weed from your carpet, clean the seeds and stems out, and leave only pure bud in the tray.

      Also, the Danish engineers probably will have to arm their robots to protect them from angry, paranoid pot-growers everywhere.

      Finally, a robot with cat-shaped grippers and a cat-Taser will be welcome, although a simple cat-sized mulching attachment would be just fine by me.

      • I'm sorry, not even a robot could herd cats.... it would be like getting a room full of middle managers to agree on something.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Waffle Iron (339739)

      If it misidentified your crop as weed you might lose a lot.

      They could add a couple of sanity checks to the GUI:

      || Alert ||

      Based on my analysis, I think that your lawn is entirely comprised of 473,573 Spotted Spurge plants. Do you want me to dig them all out by their roots?

      [ Cancel ] [ Continue ] [ Configure ]
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Kristoph (242780)
        I can just see it now, for each weed you get ...

        A weed is ready to be destroyed. Allow / Deny?

        ]{

    • by golodh (893453) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @10:05PM (#19750045)
      See this link:

      http://www.hortibot.dk/index.html [hortibot.dk]

    • by Ucklak (755284)
      It's a robot. You program it.
      You tell it "this" is the stuff I want to grow.
      "That list" you have, you pull out and incinerate keeping all seeds contained.
      "Take pictures" of anything else like kitty cats, praying mantis, grasshoppers having sex and stuff.
      Post pictures on a website.
      "Profit."
    • by iogan (943605)

      If it misidentified your crop as weed you might lose a lot. Imagine coming home one day and it has pulled out or burned your entire crop and it just sits there with a grin.
      Yeah, or what if you crop IS weed? Can it handle that?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by pimpimpim (811140)
      At the local supermarket they have a scale for vegetables and fruit with a camera for auto-detection. I am not sure how it works, and if it will learn over time via some central database, but at the moment it is accurate as horseshit. Lettuce gets mixed up with grapes, apples with bananas, that kind of stuff. I would think that weeds is an even harder task than this, as color differences are less clear, and they are a lot smaller than fruit as well.
    • It doesn't work (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CarpetShark (865376)

      I'm just curious as to how it works.


      It works badly/not at all. Any horticulturalist will tell you that weeds are just flowers no one likes. Try teaching that distinction to today's robots.
  • by g8orade (22512) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @08:50PM (#19749533)
    This is Monsanto...
  • by Ellis D. Tripp (755736) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @08:50PM (#19749535) Homepage
    weed GROWING robot, or even the weed SMOKING robot..
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by weighn (578357)

      the weed SMOKING robot..
      Dave: Its Dave man! Will you open up, I got the stuff with me!
      Robot: *cough*cough* Bite my shiny metal *cough* ass!
    • by lawpoop (604919)
      That reminds me of the sketch [jt.org] Jimmy Fallon did on SNL where he was the web-casting dorm guy.

      Jarret: Now give it up for my best friend and my roommate Goby.

      (Goby walks in and places his face in front of the camera)

      Goby: Domo we already got the weed smoking robot. Domo (turns head toward Jarret) Domo, Domo, Domo.

      (Laughs while he sits down)

      Jarret: What a minute; weed-smoking robot. What are you talking about?

      Goby: I'm talking about my masterpiece. I've invented the world's first weed smokin
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Opportunist (166417)
      Dude, if your 'bot nicks my stash, I'll kick his shiny metal ass!
  • This is great, but (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cfvgcfvg (942576) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @08:50PM (#19749537)
    We want more weed, not less. Oh, wait..
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @08:51PM (#19749539)
    From the article: (emphasis mine)

    It can manually pick weeds, spray, or remove them using flames or a laser.
    Now all we need are the sharks...

    (Sorry, I couldn't resist.)
  • by eggfoolr (999317) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @08:53PM (#19749569)
    Why has it taken so long for man to make one? Woman worked out how to do it long ago!
  • bah! (Score:3, Funny)

    by FlopEJoe (784551) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @08:53PM (#19749571)
    When will they learn that the war on drugs is a lost cause?
  • by Enderandrew (866215) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {werdnaredne}> on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @09:15PM (#19749761) Homepage Journal
    "Man Finally Makes the Weed-Removing Robot"

    In other news, Bush announces a major victory in the war on drugs.
  • by drgould (24404) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @09:19PM (#19749787)
    HortiBot - A Plant Nursing Robot [hortibot.dk]

    Doesn't look like they've gone too far yet, but interesting nevertheless.
  • It can manually pick weeds, spray, or remove them using flames or a laser.

    I, for one, welcome our flame-spitting and laser-shooting overlord. Just imagine a beowulf cluster of these Linux-running robots, what kind of profitable business plan can you come up with? Or, if you are just a gamer type, imagine a lan party, priceless.

    The only thing missing now is a console so that we can issue the command "sudo make me a sandwich".

  • by Simonetta (207550) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @09:35PM (#19749915)
    "The labor problem will bring this in, when the government gets done with their immigration laws," Jim Schwass said.

        I would appear that the farmers expect to have severe labor problems if the federal government succeeds in preventing hundreds of thousands of Mexicans from entering the US without documentation. Farmers depend on lots of low-cost seasonal labor to get their harvest picked. Not so much for grains, but for fruits, berries, and vegetables.
        Presently, as I understand the situation, thousands of migrant laborers follow the harvest and provide the long, hard bend-pick-stoop labor needed to get the produce off the ground and onto inspection belts and shipping boxes. Most (I believe, and I may be wrong) of these migrant labors are Mexicans and Central Americans living in the USA without immigration papers. This situation has been like this for about 100 years, since the mechanization of farm planting equipment led to much larger harvests. Using low-cost labor has been the only way to harvest the food. And low-cost has come to mean illegal immigrants. These people have been ruthlessly exploited and little had been done to improve their situation until Cesar Chavez energized the United Farm Workers union in the late 1960's. However the massive overpopulation of Mexico has led to the need for Mexico to send millions of their people to the USA. Stoop labor during harvest season has been the main source of employment for these people, so the cycle of exploitation begins anew.

        The introduction of high-technology into a field dominated by serf labor clearly upsets the standard order of things. The robotic technology has always been too expensive and the serf labor too cheap for the any high-tech developments in food harvesting. But if the cost of labor goes up (due to effective immigration law enforcement, a really big if ) at the same time that technological costs go down, then this will lead to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of migrant workers.

        Maybe, and not all at once. For the robots cost a lot of money. A migrant worker can pick a lot of food for the cost of the robot at $70,000. And immigration laws are never seriously enforced after a certain period of 'clamping down on illegals', a period which we are going through now. There simply is no other option to getting the food picked. This situation isn't going to change. Expect all the high-technology in farm work to take place in Europe where they don't have the masses of undocumented and untrackable migrant farm workers to pick the food.

        In reality, there is a real need for harvest robots. But it is not in harvesting food; it is in harvesting land mines. No one is going to just walk out into a mine field and just pick up the bombs by hand (regardless of how many little plastic 'keys to heaven' the mullahs give them). And do it day in, day out, for very little money. Even if for some insane reason they actually wanted to, they would eventually all get blown up. This is true robot work. The harvest robot manufacturers should get some NGO to finance all their R&D in return for donating thousands of robot units to clear the vast minefields. Unfortunately, there is no one like Princess Diana around anymore to champion this cause. Shit, maybe we could get Paris Hilton to rally the cause. Good luck!
    • "Farmers depend on lots of low-cost seasonal labor to get their harvest picked."

      Even though I am not Mexican, and a US citizen, I was one of those low-cost seasonal laborers when in my teens. Cucumbers were my specialty. Believe me, that work sucks; Backbreaking, hot, miserable, endless, and not much to show for it at the end of the day. And I had a home to go back to, and dinner waiting for me when I got there, so I had it better than the current crop of immigrants. It's about time the ag-bots went into pr
      • Thanks for the reply. I also did farm labor for several summers, picking shade tobacco in Western Massachusetts. I also picked up the spoiled crop of orange overripe cucumbers. You're right, it sucks. It's hard to put that in delicate language in a public forum as diverse as Slashdot since you never know who your audience will be and you don't have a lot of space to convince people that you're not a bigot( or if you are, you're not a stupid bigot).

        I have to agree, technology is the way
    • So...which is worse, the migrants being 'exploited', or being displaced by robots so that they can't be exploited any more?
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Simonetta (207550)
        Either way it sucks for them, and history will not be kind to us for forcing them into having to choose between really bad options while we, for the most part, live well.
        But I'm beginning to wonder if the reason that our neighbors live so poorly is not due to a 'disfunctional' culture. The migrants that I've met or have read interviews with often have many more children that they could ever hope to provide minimum subsistence for. They think that I'm weird because I have no children, and I
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Rakishi (759894)

          Either way it sucks for them, and history will not be kind to us for forcing them into having to choose between really bad options while we, for the most part, live well.

          Or it may look well upon us. Fast change usually brings about disaster.

          But I'm beginning to wonder if the reason that our neighbors live so poorly is not due to a 'disfunctional' culture. The migrants that I've met or have read interviews with often have many more children that they could ever hope to provide minimum subsistence for. They think that I'm weird because I have no children, and I can't believe that they don't see anything unusual about having ten children and a sub-minimum wage job as an illegal immigrant 2000 miles away from their family.

          It's a cultural problem basically, they were born into a culture that is based on the view that there is high child morality. Having 6 kids isn't a problem if only 2 live to breed but it is if all 6 do. With time this will probably change but culture determines a lot of things and changes slowly. It's also another reason for why fast change to "do the right thing" can backfire. Africa had a stable population before things like modern

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by MightyYar (622222)

            It's a cultural problem basically, they were born into a culture that is based on the view that there is high child morality.

            It's only indirectly related to child mortality. You have a lot of kids because they are your retirement plan. When you are too old to work, and you are too poor to save money, and the government doesn't provide anything like Social Security - then your only recourse is to have a lot of kids so that someone will take care of you. Having more kids increases the odds that one or more of them will live longer than you and have the means to take care of you.

            I fear something entirely different coming from all this mechanization.

            Don't sweat it too much - we've been progressing tec

    • So you're arguing that we shouldn't use robots because other people will be out of a job?

      Hate to break it to you, but it's been happening for 100+ years and there has been no disaster yet. It's called progress, you're living in the wrong age if you don't like advancement.
      • by Simonetta (207550)
        Hello, I posted my long-winded comment after twenty or so joke comments that had nothing to do with the actual subject.
        I don't think that robots are going to harvest because at the present it is still too expensive to do so. Migrant labor is still much cheaper.
        If the robots suddenly became very cheap, and that is always a possibility, then putting tens of thousands of migrant workers out of jobs would have consequences. One is that many of them would stave, and two is that ma
        • by mike2R (721965)

          Not meant to completely reject, that in the short-term at least, there can be problems caused by mechanisation, but there's a great quote from That Which is Seen, and That Which is Not Seen [bastiat.org] (Frederic Bastiat, 1850) on this subject.

          James B. had two francs which he had gained by two workmen; but it occurs to him, that an arrangement of ropes and weights might be made which would diminish the labour by half. Thus he obtains the same advantage, saves a franc, and discharges a workman.

          He discharges a workman:

    • Expect all the high-technology in farm work to take place in Europe where they don't have the masses of undocumented and untrackable migrant farm workers to pick the food.
      We don't need them because we fly it all in from Africa, picked by workers paid far less than Mexicans. Even if we did need cheap labour, there are plenty of Eastern Europeans willing to come over.
    • Notice first that this is being developed in Germany, not the US. The idea of using computerization on farms is nothing new in Europe.

      When I toured Europe I stayed with a family who ran a chicken farm. The father had developed a way to harvest the eggs and feed the chickens all on his own using computerization and robotics. He says his biggest labor expense is going in and cleaning out the dead chickens about once a week. Purdue gave him an award for developing this system, and it's being used all across Eu

    • There simply is no other option to getting the food picked. This situation isn't going to change.
      That is such a lie. Corporations need only offer a living wage to attract more domestic and migrant workers. So your post fits nicely with the "jobs Americans won't do" meme, but not with reality.
  • Agriculture could benefit from the use of robots. It's good to see developments in this area, especially considering that global crop output could be affected by climate change and we may need to more drastically upgrade our agricultural efficiency in the future. However, I think more research should be taken in the applications of nanotechnology and molecular machinery on agriculture. While a robot is good, a swarm of nanorobots or molecular machines would be much better and with greater efficiency, tak
    • by timeOday (582209)
      Do "nanotechnology" and "molecular machinery" include herbicides and genetically modified plants? (If not, why not?) I'd say those are getting 1000x the reseach that weed-picking robots are.

      Personally, I'd love to see macro-sized robots be successful. Doeses of microscopic things can't be removed from the environment, so they have long-term and uninteded consequences. Dumping poison on the fields has gotten us this far, but simply pulling the weeds seems cleaner and more direct, if only automation ever

    • by FooAtWFU (699187)

      While a robot is good, a swarm of nanorobots or molecular machines would be much better and with greater efficiency, taking care of our crops at the molecular level.

      Why do you think they could do it with greater efficiencies? Large scale robots can take advantage of certain economies of scale that microscopic ones don't have, it's not difficult to add communication capabilities, sensors (video, GPS, laser range-finders), and such. You can't fit that on a nanobot. You can't power that from a nanobot, short of mystic energy fields, and you're going to have a very very hard time coordinating your nanobots under any circumstances.

      And, assuming they could be manufactured

  • by AndroidCat (229562) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @09:38PM (#19749933) Homepage
    "Take me to your weeder!"
  • by Dunbal (464142) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @10:05PM (#19750043)
    I'm going to get shit for this but:

          So the Danes finally managed to clone "Mexicans"?
  • does that make the farmer a Luddite ?
  • by SickLittleMonkey (135315) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @10:34PM (#19750245)
    The Haughtibot [wikipedia.org] who is fluent "in over six million forms of communication."

    SLM
  • This robot could be even more environmentally friendly if it were made from bamboo. Or even better, from some composite made from the weeds it pulls. If it could make extra weed pulling capacity out of the weeds it pulls, that would be perfect.

    Just as long as we can stop it from "evolving" or adding humans, or our food plants, to its list of "weeds".
  • by ross.w (87751) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <yelrednowr>> on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @11:10PM (#19750445) Journal
    You may think goats eat anything, but they are actually particularly choosy. Depending on what your weed problem is, they will actually eat the weeds preferentially and keep them under control [goatworld.com]. They find things like blackberry [nwsource.com], etc especially tasty. Very important to keep them out of your garden though, because they also like roses and other flowers.

    Of course if your problem is bracken, bring on the Robot. Nothing eats that stuff.
    • by LuSiDe (755770)
      Ofcourse goats don't eat 'anything'. They only eat anything when they don't live in harmony with nature. Any species on Earth eats what they like to eat most. That means what is most useful for them (or their health or their beloved ones; their survival). If the organism cannot get the most useful, they will go for the second most useful, and so on. When an organism starts to eat anything, it usually means they cannot get what truelly nourishes them. Essentially it is a sign of (coming) disease. This whole
      • by MightyYar (622222)
        Bracken is a fern, and it IS considered to be edible by humans. In fact, I think it has recently been tied to the high incidence of stomach cancer in Japan. I'm not a farmer, but I can't see why it would be considered a pest since you only seem to see it on the sides of hills (at least while hiking). I didn't know it was a weed in conventional agriculture.

        Anyway, agriculture is inherently in conflict with nature. Most (all?) of our food crops are so different from the native species that any attempt to harm
  • That's nice, but... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bcat24 (914105) on Wednesday July 04, 2007 @11:16PM (#19750481) Homepage Journal
    ... what I really want is a robot to scoop dog poop in my yard.
  • Until they decide the most prolific species of weed is man.
    • by LuSiDe (755770)
      Interesting. I still want to know what kind of weeds are combatted in usual NON-herbicide sprayed soils*. At least goats give back to the Earth, by pooing. In the end all the Earth wants is our poo. As simple example look at how flowers give nectar to bees. They're egoists too. Although it is a smart form of egoism, it is egoism. Its all part of a greater cycle. Trees do this too.

      (* Herbicide sprayed soils are essentially dead and still need to be cured. If a herbicide sprayed soil contains a lot of weed th
  • Pfff (Score:2, Insightful)

    by LuSiDe (755770)
    All 'funny' responses here, and then some cannabis jokes. Legalize cannabis and grow up. Then such childish jokes aren't funny anymore...

    It seems nobody addresses the questionable assumption that weeds are somehow 'bad'. Nature lives in harmony without us humans quite well (arguably we rather disrupt the harmony), and there is a reason weeds grow near crops. Hint: the reason is not to be exterminated by man-made robots. Weeds actually often replenish the soil! For those interested, I can name several exampl
    • by MightyYar (622222)
      Organic farming is a grand idea, but it cannot supply the world with the diet it has become accustomed to. You can't just lambaste the "clueless farmer", when he is just responding to market demand. The vast majority of people are going to buy the "cheap carrots, cheap milk, and cheap bread" instead of the stuff labeled "organic". If everything were labeled "organic" by force of law, then people would eat fewer fresh fruits and vegetables - impacting nutrition. You would also need to use more marginal farml
  • Maybe we can have a new tall tale for our times.

    John Henry versus the steam engine, except John Henry becomes a migrant farm worker and the steam engine becomes this weeding robot contraption. Actually, I think someone is working on a robot that can pick crrops that traditionally needed the human touch, so maybe that would be better.

    I'm up too late. Not making sense.

  • http://kernow.curtin.edu.au/www/Agrirobot1/frutrob .htm [curtin.edu.au]

    This is coming much faster than most expect. Which (to stand up on a political soapbox) there really is no need for a permanent underclass of immigrant laborers to supposedly do jobs locals are unwilling to take. Because machines will take over those jobs very soon anyway.
  • Don't we have hippies for that?
  • by Phoenix666 (184391) on Thursday July 05, 2007 @08:43AM (#19753365)
    is what grandkids are for. At least, that's what my grandparents told us.
  • Oh no, my weed! [216.239.51.104]

    (Don't worry, the link is a google cache of lyrics to a song. The link is safe for work, home, men, women, children, small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri, etc.)
  • You know it used to be that only skilled trades people could be put out of work by robots. Now, thanks to modern technology, even unskilled immigrant labourers can be put on the streets! Yay robots! (Read in the voice of Stephen Colbert).

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