In Switzerland, around 2200 tonnes of active ingredients for pesticides are sold every year (Agricultural Report 2016), of which around 40 % are herbicides. The Federal Action Plan for Plant Protection aims to reduce their use significantly. This can be achieved by replacing the crop protection agents completely with mechanical or non-intrusive processes (organic farming), or with a targeted application of herbicides to the weeds using robots.
The high number of working hours per hectare for manual weeding is an important factor for the significantly higher product prices in organic farming. The use of robots for weed control could make organic production more efficient. This would significantly lower inhibitions for the conversion to organic farming and make organic farming much more attractive. The use of robotics in organic farming requires herbicide-free methods to regulate weeds. This project aims to identify and verify new methods (such as heat, electricity, sandblasting technology or mechanical tools) that can be automated with the aid of autonomous robots.
In conventional agriculture, robots with the "spot spraying" system could enable targeted application of the herbicides to the weeds, which would greatly reduce the area and quantities of herbicides sprayed. This kind of robots has made enormous progress in recent years. For a successful market launch, however, efficient use under the most varied conditions and in different crops must be guaranteed.