YVERDON-LES-BAINS, Switzerland/CHICAGO (Reuters) - In a field of sugar beet in Switzerland, a solar-powered robot that looks like a table on wheels scans the rows of crops with its camera, identifies weeds and zaps them with jets of blue liquid from its mechanical tentacles.As is true with so much news, The Onion was ahead of the pack with their 2005 reporting on the plowborgs of Idaho and Nebraska:
Undergoing final tests before the liquid is replaced with weedkiller, the Swiss robot is one of new breed of AI weeders that investors say could disrupt the $100 billion pesticides and seeds industry by reducing the need for universal herbicides and the genetically modified (GM) crops that tolerate them.
Dominated by companies such as Bayer, DowDuPont, BASF and Syngenta, the industry is bracing for the impact of digital agricultural technology and some firms are already adapting their business models.
The stakes are high. Herbicide sales are worth $26 billion a year and account for 46 percent of pesticides revenue overall while 90 percent of GM seeds have some herbicide tolerance built in, according to market researcher Phillips McDougall.
“Some of the profit pools that are now in the hands of the big agrochemical companies will shift, partly to the farmer and partly to the equipment manufacturers,” said Cedric Lecamp, who runs the $1 billion Pictet-Nutrition fund that invests in companies along the food supply chain.
In response, producers such as Germany’s Bayer have sought partners for their own precision spraying systems while ChemChina’s Syngenta [CNNCC.UL], for example, is looking to develop crop protection products suited to the new equipment.
While still in its infancy, the plant-by-plant approach heralds a marked shift from standard methods of crop production.
Now, non-selective weedkillers such as Monsanto’s Roundup are sprayed on vast tracts of land planted with tolerant GM seeds, driving one of the most lucrative business models in the industry.
‘SEE AND SPRAY’
But ecoRobotix www.ecorobotix.com/en, developer of the Swiss weeder, believes its design could reduce the amount of herbicide farmers use by 20 times. The company said it is close to signing a financing round with investors and is due to go on the market by early 2019....MORE
Government May Restrict Use Of Genetically Modified Farmers
DC—The Department of HyperAgriculture announced Monday that it will begin investigating possible restrictions on the cultivation, implementation, and breeding of genetically modified farmers, weighing possible safety and health risks against the farmers' dramatically increased yield and efficiency.
"As evidenced by the many strong opinions regarding these farmers, we can all agree that more research needs to be done," said Secretary of HyperAgriculture Roald McDonald in a press conference this morning. "Whatever happens, we cannot let our growing population's need for more and better foods lead us recklessly into the creation of 'Frankenfarmers.'"
McDonald added: "That said, I can't deny the benefits of an agricultural laborer who subsists on common weeds, grows his own exo-overalls, sweats pesticides, and whose six arms end in retractable plows, scythes, and harrows."
Several larger North American corporate states are already using GM farmers to perform specialized or time-sensitive tasks. Monsanto-Idaho has successfully used a gene-gineered strain of Mountain Anderson farmer....MORE