Naïo Technologies' BlueBob prototype is a six-row, fully electric and autonomously navigating field robot for mechanical weed control in sugar beet
Naïo Technologies’ BlueBob prototype is a six-row, fully electric and autonomously navigating field robot for mechanical weed control in sugar beet.

Agricultural robot developer Naïo Technologies has successfully delivered a second prototype, BlueBob, to the seed breeding company Strube D&S GmbH. This latest machine underline the partners’ goal of developing technical innovations for sustainable and future-oriented agriculture.

The next generation of the BlueBob prototype is a six-row, fully electric and autonomously navigating field robot for mechanical weed control in sugar beet between the first two leaf stages and canopy closure. The project is being realised by Naïo Technologies in co-operation with the Fraunhofer Development Centre for X-ray Technology EZRT, a division of the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS. BlueBob 2.0 is equipped with Naïo navigation technology and has been enhanced with Strube/Fraunhofer technology for sugar beet detection.

The field robot uses a combination of inter-rows tools guided by camera and in-row powered tools based on AI. This result is an almost complete elimination of weeds in the sugar beet field both between rows and between each plant.

“The weeding principle is based on distinguishing between weeds and beet in real time and at a very early stage,” the head of seed quality research at Strube, Christian Hügel, said. “This is an essential advantage for eliminating weeds quickly and to avoid competition between weeds and beets.”

All living plants are recorded by multispectral cameras.

“Each plant position is precisely located, and an artificial intelligence algorithm is used to analyse the phenotype of each individual plant and classify it into weeds and beets,” Mr Hügel added.

Turning in the field is also no problem for the robot. It autonomously follows the track of the seed drill, which has recorded the RTK GPS coordinates of the driving route with an antenna on the seed drill thanks to a navigation system from Naïo Technology. BlueBob autonomously finds the rows and the tracks, recognises the end of the field, and turns independently into the next track on its own.

“The weeding performance of about half a hectare per hour is impressive, and the autonomy of the batteries allows a continuous shift of eight hours,” the BlueBob project manager at Strube, Bruno De Wulf, said.

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