Agricultural Weed Control Using Autonomous Mowers

Minnesota farmers and land managers are engaged in an annual battle to control weeds.  Each year, significant amounts of herbicide, diesel fuel, labor, and money are expended in an effort to stay ahead of weed infestations.  Control of weeds is critical in the production of food.  Current methods of weed control using herbicides have been very effective, but have unintentional and harmful consequences to our air, land, water, and wildlife resources.

Auto mower

Objectives

We propose to develop improved methods using robots to control weeds on agricultural lands.  Solar energy will be used to power the robots.  In this first phase, weed control robots will be tested within pastures.  In a future phase, testing will include weeding robots within row crops such as corn and soybeans. 

In accomplishing these goals, we aspire to:

  • Significantly reduce the use of herbicides on agricultural and natural lands across the State of Minnesota.
  • Replace fossil fuel and resulting air emissions with clean energy produced locally.
  • Protect water resources by preventing surface and ground water contamination with herbicides.
  • Reduce the impact of herbicide on wildlife, desired native plant species, and the evolution of herbicide tolerant ‘super’ weeds.
  • Develop new time-saving tools for farmers as well as natural lands managers to control weeds.
  • Advance the rapidly growing field of robotics within the State.
  • Partner with MN companies to development and manufacture cutting-edge robotic technologies.

Sponsors

This project was supported by The Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund* as recommended by the Legislative ‐ Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR).  Eric Buchanan, Project Manager.

Trust Fund logo* The Trust Fund is a permanent fund constitutionally established by the citizens of Minnesota to assist in the protection, conservation, preservation, and enhancement of the state’s air, water, land, fish, wildlife, and other natural resources. Currently 40% of net Minnesota State Lottery proceeds are dedicated to growing the Trust Fund and ensuring future benefits for Minnesota’s environment and natural resources.

Collaborators

The University of MInnesota's Department of Computer Science and Engineering in the College of Science & Engineering, and the Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering in the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, and The Toro Company