The challenge of feeding an extra billion mouths by 2030 must be met with sustainable and ecologically friendly solutions. When it comes to applying chemicals, doing more with less is one of the key challenges facing agri-business.

Brief


Alongside the demand for increased food production, environmental and economic factors are driving a need to cut the amount of chemicals used on crops. So, we decided to create a targeted crop sprayer to apply chemicals only where they’re needed.

Our aim was to achieve the same precision dispense as an inkjet print head – but over half a metre rather than a few millimetres. Add in the complexities of gravity and air resistance and it became an interesting challenge. 

Approach


We developed a solution based on a fast-acting valve set in a swivelling head to give precise control of the droplet size and position. A camera mounted on the sprayer’s boom identifies the target using shape and colour, and tracks it using probabilistic programming (machine vision) to determine where to aim and when to fire.

The targeting calculations take into account the speed of the tractor in relation to the target – often more than 15mph – and the distance the droplet needs to travel. 

Benefit


By targeting only specific foreign leaves or pests, our technology dramatically reduces the amount of chemicals dispensed, with drift and run-off virtually eliminated. This reduces ground water pollution by chemical pesticides, eliminates wind-borne contamination and eases regulatory compliance, as well as helping to save farmers money.