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Back You are here: Inicio Agro-food technologies Projects A new project will use laser technology to get rid of weeds on crops without pesticides

A new project will use laser technology to get rid of weeds on crops without pesticides

The WeLASER project will create an autonomous robot with intelligent vision for detecting weeds and later applying a strong laser to exterminate them and prevent them from spreading.

Vehicle with a weed discrimination system for crops. / WeLASERA project coordinated by researchers from the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC by its Spanish acronym) will use laser technology to get rid of weeds on crops, and thus it will offer a sustainable alternative to the usage of chemical products such as pesticides.

This is the EU-funded WeLASER project, which is part of the HORIZON 2020 programme and it counts with a € 5,4 million budget. The prototype will consist of an autonomous vehicle or robot with an AI-vision system that will discriminate weeds on crops. The machine will then detect weeds’ meristems, which are responsible for their growth, and will proceed to apply a high-power laser to exterminate them. This prototype will be developed by a multidisciplinary team coordinated by researchers from the Centre for Automation and Robotics (CAR), a joint centre constituted by CSIC and The Technical University of Madrid (UPM).

Pablo González de Santos, a scientist from CSIC in CAR-CSIC-UPM and coordinator of the project explains that “this technology, in focusing directly in the meristems and by not applying pesticides, gives a clean solution to the problem of getting rid of weeds at the same time that helps to reduce significantly the amount of chemical products in the environment”.

He adds that “this is how agricultural productivity can be increased at the same time that a greater environmental sustainability is achieved and animals and human beings’ health is improved”. González Santos’ team will be in charge of coordinating the smart central controller for all subsystems, including the generation of emissions and the autonomous navigation of the mobile robot. The WeLASER project will be carried out by a consortium of 10 associates from Spain, Germany, Denmark, France, Poland, Belgium, Italy and Holland. The project is going to be focused on wheat and corn crops, the most relevant crops in the European market, as well as on beetroot and carrot.

Weeds growing in agricultural crops are characterised by their high dispersal capacity, a great persistence and for decreasing plantations’ performance. In order to eliminate these weeds, chemical products are often used, but they deteriorate soil features and damage beneficial soil organisms. One of the European Union key objectives is in fact to eradicate the usage of pesticides. The WeLASER project proposes a sustainable alternative to the application of pesticides in crops and estimates having a prototype available in 2023. Later on this prototype will have to be commercialised.

CSIC participates in this project alongside the following partners: Agreenculture SaS (France), The Farmer and Agriculture Organisation Coordinator (Spain), Futonics Laser (Germany), The Institute for Ecology of Industrial Areas (Poland), Laser Zentrum Hannover (Germany), University of Bologna (Italy), University of Copenhagen (Denmark), Ghent University (Belgium) and Vanden Borne Projecten BV (Holland).