Blue River Technology And John Deere Innovate Weed Eradication
John Deere and Blue River Technology sets forth on eradication…of weeds, that is. Anybody remember that menacing, “peacekeeping” robot from the Robocop movie franchise, ED-209? Completely automated and seemingly distinct from any real governing body, the ED-209 specialized in urban pacification. It was programmed to target a criminal threat, and then eliminate the perpetrator through a hailstorm of automatic cannon fire, explosive rockets, and metal fists. Sure, it might have struggled with critical thinking, confusing criminals with law abiding citizens. And, it might have been overzealous in its application of the law, as well as its conceptualization of “appropriate force.” But, the idea behind the ED-209 was, at the very least, a progressive one.
Well, tractor manufacturer John Deere must remember the awesome potential of ED-209. They’ve embraced this automated approach to eradicating crime…of a sort. They have applied this model to the extermination of weeds in your crop beds. Through robotic tractor attachments, unwanted plants are identified and terminated using high precision rounds of herbicide.
How Did This Come About?
This innovation came about through John Deere’s recent acquisition of Blue River, a technology company started in 2011. Blue River had developed a software that allows computers to distinguish between crops and weeds. In an acquisition deal worth just north of $300 million, John Deere can now utilize this technology by coupling it with their already established GPS-guided farm vehicles.
Even while high-tech agricultural solutions become more common place these days, this product raises the bar for innovation in the farming sector. Many companies are utilizing drone technology to help collect crop data for herbicide and pesticide spraying operations. But, crops in problem sectors still end up getting a blanket application of chemicals. This affects both the crops and the weeds.
How Is The New Blue River Technology Different?
John Deere’s implementation of the Blue River technology approaches chemical treatment from a ground-level perspective. In contrast to the traditional blanket treatment of crops, the Blue River robots attach to a tractor just like conventional spraying equipment. However, instead of spraying everything, Blue River software allows on-board cameras and automated sprayers to target specific, unwanted plants. If the weeds are the criminal, this new technology is a more reliable and discriminating, less bloodthirsty ED-209.
Blue River Technology Already In Production
The company already has a product on the market. LettuceBot already has a place in the US lettuce industry. Currently, the LettuceBot is used in around 10% of the country’s lettuce production. In the field, it targets weeds as well as undersized plants, or plants that grow on top of one another.
Blue River has also been testing the next iteration of their weed sniping software. The plan is to release it next year. The new system will target and destroy unwanted plant life with a spray of herbicide that affects an area less than 1″x 1″. Another bonus of the Blue River technology: this new system reduces herbicide usage by around 90%.
Blue River, who will continue to operate as as an independent brand apart from John Deere. They will also develop versions of its software for a variety of other crops. John Deere, of course, will continue to integrate the Blue River technology into their machinery. They plan to make weed eradication a more precise and cost-effective endeavor…just as long as it doesn’t become self-aware and take itself off-line.