Microwave technology used for weed control trials

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A Melbourne agtech startup believes recent trials show microwave technology could eliminate the need for herbicides in agriculture.

Growave, which was created initially in partnership with University of Melbourne, has conducted field trials on Victorian strawberry farms and says 95 per cent of fungal disease was removed using the new technology.

The startup’s interim CEO Jason Chaffey says there are at least 25 different species of Australian weeds which are resistant to traditional herbicides, which has prompted the research into alternative elimination methods.

"Weeds are getting smarter, while the ability to target them with chemicals is getting narrower with tighter restrictions already introduced in the US and Europe banning particular herbicides with Australia likely to follow suit," he says.

The technology works by a machine which is towed behind a tractor, but Growave ultimately plans for it to be configured autonomously.


Growave's technology has been trialled on Victorian strawberry farms

Growave’s head of product Liam Hescock says farmers have been "highly engaged" during the trials because of the new approach to a significant problem.

"Our patented microwave technology allows for efficiently targeting heat that destroys select weeds, buried seeds, and pathogens," he says.

"It penetrates the target and destroys the cell structure from the inside permanently.

"Farmers use fumigants to treat pathogens in the dirt after harvesting a crop. Pathogens can lay dormant for 12 months in dead crops, but herbicide doesn't kill charcoal rot.

"Charcoal rot is a significant problem for the strawberry industry, with 90 per cent of Victorian strawberry crops affected last year."

Further commercial trials are planned next year in both Australia and the United States.

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