Croplands launches autonomous spot weed spraying kit

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The Croplands WeedIt PhantomDrive in action on a New Holland T7.200 tractor The Croplands WeedIt PhantomDrive in action on a New Holland T7.200 tractor The Croplands WeedIt PhantomDrive in action on a New Holland T7.200 tractor

Croplands has enabled farmers to perform autonomous optical spot weed spraying by partnering with AutonoTrac to marry WeedIt technology with PhantomDrive, a driverless platform kit that can be added to current-model tractors with CVT transmission.

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The Australian-owned agricultural spray equipment manufacturer adopted the WeedIt technology for local broadacre conditions over five years ago, and says it is now improving the herbicide spraying efficiency of many properties here.

The benefits, Croplands says, have been chemical savings, combating hard to kill weeds, lowering weed seed banks and retaining soil moisture.

The WeedIt sensors detect weeds by recognising living plants’ active chlorophyll. A signal is then sent to a solenoid to activate the correct nozzle as it passes over the target weed, which minimises the amount of herbicide that is applied to bare ground.

The WeedIt PhantomDrive, as the combined toolbar kit is called, can be accessed remotely on any smart phone, tablet or computer with internet access. It monitors both the tractor and sprayer and will alert the user to any issues with either.

It has weather station capabilities for monitoring environmental conditions at the site of application and the system will stop operation if preset weather parameters are triggered.

The Croplands WeedIt PhantomDrive also incorporates a collision avoidance system, to eliminate any accidents on farm with people, animals or foreign objects.

Toowoomba-based Croplands northern regional manager Jeremy Rennick has been heavily involved in the project.

"Making the WeedIt autonomous was the next logical step for us with this product and we see it suiting medium to large scale farmers trying to get more efficiency into their operation either by giving themselves more time for other tasks around the farm or through better utilisation of their existing workforce," he says.

Platform creator Luke Schelosky says the PhantomDrive as a truly autonomous drive system.

"We understood that an autonomous tractor by itself is simply a novelty so we had to provide a truly integrated system that not only gives excellent autonomous performance but also monitors and works in conjunction with the implement," he says.

"Things like an onboard weather station, SMS warning system for both the tractor and implement, tyre pressure monitoring and the ability to successfully steer around obstacles in the paddock were all critical in making the system a success."

Croplands says that, weather conditions permitting, the WeedIt PhantomDrive can work 24 hours a day, with the option to travel slower and  improve chemical application technique, while maximising your ha/day – "also eliminating extreme boredom for the operator which can occur when travelling around the same paddock at low speeds!"

Croplands released the WeedIt PhantomDrive to its local dealer network last week, and will unveil it to the public at next week’s CRT Farm Fest in Kingsthorpe, near Toowoomba, Queensland. The show is on at 11465 Warrego Highway from 6-8 June.


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