WeedSmart Week - Emerald
August 13-15th 2019
WeedSmart is a national initiative promoting long term sustainability of herbicide use. Recently WeedSmart ran WeedSmart Week in Emerald, a 3-day event providing practical information about controlling weeds.
Day one was a forum with speakers talking about a range of herbicide issues and experiences. Among the presentations were talks on herbicide resistance, optical spraying, using drones to develop weed maps and green-on-green camera spraying. Technology is moving fast and autonomous weed control will be common in the near future.
Day two included several farm tours. Don Sampson demonstrated his 70-foot blade plow which he is using in conjunction with other weed tactics such as chemicals to kill herbicide resistant and hard to kill weeds. It is interesting how farmers who have been moving towards zero till farming systems are now turning to some level of tillage in the fight against herbicide resistance.
At the final stop Alex Olsen from Autoweed demonstrated green-on-green camera spraying technology. This technology allows spray nozzles to be turned on and off as particular weeds are detected. Thousands of photos of target weeds are collected and labelled and this information is fed into the computer system allowing the cameras to detect the difference between weed and non-weed species. This technology will be very useful for spot spraying. Compared to applying a blanket spray, this technology can reduce chemical usage dramatically. Many companies are working on this technology, however, Autoweed are making a system which can be retrofitted to the sprayer you already have, rather than having to purchase a whole new boom.
On day three we visited Swarm Farm Robotics at Gindie. Swarm Farm has a range of commercialised autonomous vehicles which can perform tasks such as spraying. We watched an autonomous vehicle spraying weeds and had the run down on how it worked and what the technology can do. Swarm Farm also demonstrated the mechanical Weed Chipper which also uses WEEDit technology but instead of spraying weeds with herbicide it digs them out with a tyne. Swarm Farm has a swarm of other autonomous vehicles which are used both commercially and for research purposes. These vehicles are now available for lease and are being used across a range of industries including broad acre cropping, horticulture and turf farms.
Find out more about Weed Smart here: https://weedsmart.org.au/