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University of Bonn start-up advances a robot that uses lasers to combat weeds

By Jesse Schwartz
Published: June 14th, 2017

Researchers at the University of Bonn in Germany are developing a robot that automatically identifies weeds in a field and takes them out them with a short laser pulse.

Julio Pastrana and Tim Wigbels at the university’s Institute of Geodesy and Geoinformation aim to help farmers, who in order to produce a rich harvest must drive back weeds to allow their crops to thrive. In organic agriculture, this cannot be accomplished with herbicides as they are considered toxic, leaving farmers to laboriously weed out unwanted plants. Pastrana and Wigbels believe this time-consuming work could soon be accomplished using their camera-equipped robot.

“The robot shoots the leaves of the unwanted plants with short laser pulses, which causes a weakening in their vitality,” says Pastrana.

“It is thus predicted,” Wigbels adds, “that we will no longer need to use herbicides on our fields, and the environment will be protected.”

With help from an EXIST Business Start-up Grant from Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, the two researchers launched the company Escarda Technologies to take their innovation to market. Officials from the technology transfer office at the University of Bonn helped Pastrana and Wigbels secure the grant, which also enables the scientists to attend training programs to prepare them for the challenges of launching a business.

“It is now a case of finding investors and further developing the business plan for the start-up,” Wigbels comments.


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