Bosch debuts new autonomous farming robot

The Bonirob farming robot. Image courtesy of Bosch
The Bonirob farming robot. Image courtesy of Bosch

German manufacturer Bosch has shown off one of the world’s most efficient and specialised farming robots.

Called the ‘Bonirob’, the robot was developed by Deepfield Robotics, a startup owned by Bosch.

Primarily, the robot is able to rapidly cover a wide amount of cropland space on a farm and rapidly identify which plants are present.

Using satellite navigation and LIDAR it can navigate itself “to the nearest centimetre” though such fields with very little human interaction.

By identifying which plant species are located where within a field, the team behind the Bonirob hopes to be able to improve overall crop yields. Through rapid identification of plant species and more detailed information about how they grow, farmers would be able make more informed planting choices.

To actually identify which plants are which, the Bonirob uses a complex camera array combined with advanced software.

“Algorithms analyze the photos taken by scanners and cameras. This automatic screening saves a lot of time and effort,” Professor Amos Albert general manager of the Bosch start-up Deepfield Robotics.

To overcome the fact that the appearance of many plants is very similar, Deepfield Robotics implemented machine learning to ‘teach’ the robot to identify the shape of leaves.

“Over time, based on parameters such as leaf color, shape, and size, Bonirob learns how to differentiate more and more accurately between the plants we want and the plants we don’t want,” said Prof. Albert.

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Weeding made easy

As well as helping to identify and categorize different plant species, the Bonirob can also function as an autonomous weeding robot, able to remove invasive plant species.

Rather than make use of harmful pesticides to kill such plants however, the robot simply uses a heavy metal rod to pound them into the soil.

Reportedly the robot is able to destroy around 120 weeds per minute, with 80% accuracy. Used correctly the robot should traverse the same patch of ground several times in order to destroy the vast majority of such weeds.

While Bosch has shown off its robot to politicians and the media, there is currently no word on when it will reach the market and how much it will eventually cost.