How This Farming Robot Uses Lasers As Weed Killer

According to the Weed Science Society of America (WSSA), soybean and corn farmers would lose almost 50% of their crops to unwanted weeds if there were no herbicides or alternative control methods used today. However, sometimes weeds can gradually develop immunity if they're exposed to the same herbicide. Beyond that, weed killers present health risks to humans, and can hurt important insects such as bees that help to pollinate plants.

Even if we could find the perfect herbicide, you would still spend a lot of your farming costs on labor and buying chemicals. According to Successful Farming, labor is the highest expense for crop farmers in the U.S. But what if there was a way you could significantly reduce your labor costs on the farm when spraying herbicide? Better yet, what if you could get rid of herbicides altogether to produce healthier crops? A Seattle-based company seems to have figured out the answer by reinventing weed killer technology.

This farming robot doesn't use herbicide to kill weeds

Carbon Robotics, a U.S. agricultural company, developed a robot in 2021 that uses carbon dioxide lasers to kill weeds. The robot, known as "Autonomous LaserWeeder," is designed with high-resolution cameras and artificial intelligence that helps it to scan and eliminate weeds without damaging your crops or soil. So efficient is the Autonomous LaserWeeder that it can cover up to 20 acres in a day at a top speed of 5 mph. More succinctly, it can eliminate about 100,000 weeds in an hour. In addition to that, Carbon Robotics offers a 2022 model of the Autonomous LaserWeeder that kills at least 200,000 weeds per hour.

The four-wheeled robot is convenient for nurturing specialty row crops such as onions, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, and lettuce. However, the Autonomous LaserWeeder is limited to removing weeds from crops that don't exceed a height of 3 feet (via Successful Farming). In other words, if you've planted wheat or corn, you might still need to spray herbicide for weed control.

Farming robots could cut down your production cost

Carbon Robotics is yet to disclose the purchase price of the Autonomous LaserWeeder, even though it has sold out all of the available units. But according to Paul Mikesell, the CEO of Carbon Robotics, the purchase price of the Autonomous LaserWeeder is similar to a mid-size tractor (via Modern Farmer). This means that it could have a price tag of between $25,000 to $50,000. With an average diesel consumption of 1.1 gallons per hour, it's also fuel efficient.

Even better, Autonomous LaserWeeder could be an asset for farmers who are affected by the labor shortage. Even if you hire people, it would take at least a day for 30 workers to remove weeds in a 30-acre farm — according to a farmer who was interviewed by the Seattle Times. But the 2022 Autonomous LaserWeeder model that is 20 feet wide can take one hour to cover 2 acres, according to the product spec sheet (PDF). Of course, without paying for human labor, you can reduce your production cost significantly. Carbon Robotics says you can "save up to 80% ... while breaking even in 2-3 years."

The next delivery dispatch for the Autonomous LaserWeeder is expected in 2023, but you can pre-order now.