Intelligent spraying system improves accuracy and reduces chemical costs

A successful three-year collaboration between two British manufacturers, Techneat Engineering and Tillett and Hague Technology Limited, has culminated in the launch of the Weed Wizard – a new, intelligent spraying system aimed at farm contractors and growers of onions, leeks and carrots.

intelligent spraying system

Manufacturer of the Weed Wizard, Techneat Engineering managing director Tom Neat, explains: “The Weed Wizard is a tractor-driven, front-mounted, three-bed, intelligent spraying system with a high resolution 6m hydraulic folding boom.

“Using very high-speed, narrow jet nozzles spaced every 100mm across the full width of the boom, its three-camera system identifies and track weeds as they come into view, applying a narrow flat fan spray onto each weed as it passes under each nozzle. Each camera tracks a single bed and is mounted directly above the crop row giving the machine the best possible overhead view of the weed population as each crop pass is made.

“At a working speed of 5kph, each nozzle is able to react multiple times in a matter of milliseconds, ensuring that no targeted weed is missed during each pass. The boom is also deliberately set at a height of just 50cm above ground level, making the machine far less susceptible to drift in windier conditions when combined with the use of extremely low drift, flat fan nozzles.

“The Weed Wizard is available in tank sizes of either 650-litres or 250-litres, operates in normal daylight conditions, and does not require infra-red technology like many of its competitors. This gives it a significant advantage in that it does not require a hood to cover any part of the sprayer to maintain dark conditions. Use of a hood can easily damage the crop during operation.

“A side-shift system also supports the accuracy of the Weed Wizard by ensuring that the sprayer boom maintains a stable position over the crop at all times, even if the tractor is unable to due to uneven ground.

“The new system offers a number of different pre-settings, enabling the operator to set the minimum weed size for control before operation and vary the amount of chemical that is applied to each target weed to minimise overspray. The operator can also adjust the machine’s field of vision to reflect a one-bed, two-bed or three-bed growing system.

“At earlier growth stages of the crop, the use of a non-selective herbicide, such as glyphosate, can also be applied at low pressure and with no spray zones via the Weed Wizard,” says Mr Neat.

Intelligence and reliability

Tillett and Hague Technology director and co-founder Nick Tillett, whose company designs and manufactures the spot sprayer software system used by the Weed Wizard, sees the intelligence and reliability of the system as the keys to its success.

Mr Tillett comments: “The spot sprayer software simultaneously monitors the forward speed of the tractor and assesses the visual data from each camera using computer algorithms to identify which plants are weeds based on a combination of factors including the plant’s position relative to crop rows, size, shape and colour.

“Although the system was originally designed for targeting volunteer potatoes, it has since been developed to recognise all types of broadleaf weeds. Once a weed has been identified on screen, the algorithm then decides which nozzles should be switched on, and for how long, in order to deliver the right amount of herbicide to each targeted weed with minimum overspray.

“The system is fully automated, so once the operator has pre-set the spot sprayer, it will target weeds with a very high degree of accuracy minimising collateral contact with the crop based on the specific pre-settings.

On the software licensing, there are no annual or renewal fees to pay and any upgrades are sent to the user without cost,” concludes Mr Tillett. 

Mr Neat adds: “The benefits of the Weed Wizard, both economic and agronomic, in not having to spray the whole crop are substantial, enabling farmers and contractors to reduce post-emergence herbicide use on carrots, onions and leeks by over 95%, as well as receiving significant environmental benefits from minimising their agrochemical inputs. The Weed Wizard is also a much quicker and a more cost-effective alternative to employing a team to hand rogue a crop for 1–2 weeks each year.

“The Weed Wizard is NSTS compliant and requires one annual service to ensure that nozzles and filters are free of blockages to maintain optimum performance.”

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