The "Grapress" autonomous robot for weed management Photo: Fieldkaihatsu

Autonomous robot prevents growth of weeds by stepping on them

By Sousuke Kudou

Fieldkaihatsu Co Ltd, based in Utsunomiya, Tochigi Prefecture, has developed a method to control the height of weeds by using an autonomous robot to periodically step on them on the premises of a solar power plant.

Fieldkaihatsu considers it possible to commercialize the autonomous robot and plans to release it as "Grapress" in March 2019. The expected price of the robot is ¥800,000.

Grapress adjusts the height of weeds at about 10cm by stepping on grasses at a certain interval while autonomously moving on the premises of a solar power plant. According to botanical knowledge, when plants are contacted or cut, they emit ethylene, which is a hormone related to the suppression of growth. Because of this function, the heights of grass and weeds in a park become low in areas on which people often walk, Fieldkaihatsu said.

Thus far, when the robot is used to mechanically apply a weight to weeds four times a day, their growth was suppressed by up to 75%, Fieldkaihatsu said.

Equipped with a proximity sensor, the robot can autonomously move in space surrounded by fences and run on routes designated by wires, etc. By discriminating humans from plants with an ultrasonic sensor, it automatically stops in front of a human and moves backward/makes a turn. Also, even when it goes out of a designated area due to external factors such as stones and mud, it can automatically return to the designated route.

© Nikkei Technology Online

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Maybe cheaper to pay someone than to spend 800,000 for weeding?

3 ( +4 / -1 )

How about using sheep and goats? Local school kids can give water to the animals daily.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

4 times a day? Many solar power farms (plants?) would need two or three of these to do this 4 times in the same spot.

Better to give someone a job for the same price. Robots don’t pay taxes, yet.

Or like Michael said, use goats and design a cheaper ¥100,000 4WD Pooba bot to clean up the poop.

Congrats to the effort but not a very practical idea.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

You could just use black plastic sheeting, or salt...

4 ( +4 / -0 )

This reminds me a story I head many years ago (not sure if it is true or not). The story is about how NASA had to spend a large amount of money to design a ballpoint pen for astronauts to use since ordinary ballpoint pen does not work in space. One day a Russian astronaut visited NASA and was asked if they had such ballpoint pen in Russia. 'No' the Russian said 'We use pencils.'.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

An employee would cost much, much more annually than this robot, which is a one time cost and most likely minimal maintenance costs. Sheep could easily damage electrical lines and the panels. And no need for pesticides.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Not only would a robot be less costly, isn’t there a constant labor shortage?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Was checking out a house yesterday for sale and it was next to a small solar farm. Black sheeting on the ground and no weeds. Like I said above, Congrats to the effort but not a very practical idea.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Just take the train to Narita. You can see solar panels buried in weeds for about 10 minutes. There are so many huge weeds that it makes you wonder why they bother building something then neglecting it so badly. But that is the way Japanese do things in many cases.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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