A smart camera crop treatment system, designed to enable farmers to reduce standard agrochemical usage by up to 90%, is being developed by Angus-based SoilEssentials.
Targeted to be ready for on-farm use within the next three years, the new system centres on a re-trainable smart camera which will be able to recognise, map and precision apply agrochemicals to crops.
“The aim is that in the very near future we will have technology available which can ensure accurate differentiation between crop and weed species and therefore enable precision targeting of agrochemicals,” said SoilEssentials managing director Jim Wilson.
“Ultimately this targeting technology will allow farmers, agronomists and agrochemical applicators to dramatically reduce the total amount of protection products applied to crops across Britain and worldwide.”
An early form of the development has already completed a feasibility project called Grass Vision in which a low-cost machine vision system was used to successfully recognise and precision apply herbicides to broad-leaved weeds in grassland.
The next challenge is to apply the same process to arable crops.
“The amount of agrochemical savings which might be possible will obviously depend on the level of weed infestation in any given crop,” said SoilEssentials technical manager Graham Ralston.
“If you’ve only got a few weeds across a field, of course, then the reduction possible from a targeted application is going to be massive in comparison to spraying the whole field.
“We are certainly talking of up to 90% reduction in chemical usage being possible.”
The new development will initially be made available as a contractors’ item for use by trained operators, with the potential for it to be extended as a farmers’ item in due course.