This is where the Ibex Agribot could come in handy for farmers. The UK-based company has started field trials with a highly mobile agricultural robot that manoeuvres around steep dairy and sheep pastures as it automatically identifies and destroys weeds.
Cheaper and safer than sending in workers
According to the Ibex website, toxic weeds and those that grow into bushes and threaten to entangle sheep are of particular concern. In high-lying lands with steep gradients that are accessible only by single track mud paths, spraying herbicides to eliminate unwanted weeds can be costly and ineffective, as well as dangerous for workers. Ibex sees its Agribot as a cheaper and safer alternative that could make tending upland farms easier, as well as open up previously inaccessible areas to livestock and cultivation.
Live video feed for constant monitoring
The Agribot is fitted with sensors and cameras and, with its rubber tracks, can negotiate thick vegetation, mud and slippery bracken slopes of up to 45°. At the same time, the tracks reduce ground pressure, meaning less damage to the soil.
The sensors can identify undesirable weeds and the software ensures that the correct dosage of chemicals is applied, a considerable saving over broadcast spraying of weeds. The Agribot can operate for up to a day away from its base. It navigates independently, choosing the best route while providing a live video feed in case human aid is required.
“We have a very interested and active user group of local farmers and we’re continually using their advice,” says Ibex project manager, Dr Charles Fox, of the trials.
According to Ibex, the field tests will continue until later this year. It expects that the Agribot will cost approximately the same as an all-terrain vehicle.