A robot for sugar beet


Several months ago, Naïo set up a partnership with the German selector Strube, a subsidiary of the Deleplanque Group and a European seed advisor. What was the objective of this partnership? To innovate in order to adapt to more sustainable agriculture by developing a robot dedicated specifically to weeding sugar beet crops.

A presentation day in the Val d’Oise region

All the representatives of the sugar beet inter-profession, the sugar industry, as well as sugar beet producers, travelled to Ableiges (Val-d’Oise) last Wednesday, 23 September at the invitation of the Deleplanque Group for a day’s presentation of their current innovative projects.

“France has a long tradition of beet production and the technical knowledge of its planters is a reference within Europe. Today, however, producers are facing new challenges which require different involvement from a seed producer such as us”, highlighted Eric Verjus, the Group’s chairman, as an introduction to this day. “We must continue to supply rich, productive, varieties, but we also have a duty to mobilise ourselves regarding themes such as climate change, biodiversity, the environment, the decrease in phyto etc.”.

The current prototype uses the Dino platform

In spite of the rain, which was present at this meeting, several demonstrations were able to be carried out, to the delight of those present.

The current prototype is evolving autonomously, guided by GPS RTK, at a maximum speed of 4 km/h, thanks to its electric motors and a battery currently supplying 8 hours’ autonomy. In the row, it can distinguish between beet and weeds at seedling stage on the basis of multi-spectral camera images feeding the algorhythms.

“The BlueBob, the name which the final robot will bear, will be designed to hoe mechanically on and between rows of beet, from the early plant (cotyledon) stage up to the ends of the rows, at variable distances between the sugar beet plants and at sufficient speed, ie. at least 0.5 ha/hr. It will include a system of on-board multi-spectral cameras feeding the algorhythms, which analyses the seedlings from images it takes in order to then divide them into two categories (beet and weeds) and decides in real time whether to activate the robot’s cutters or not” specifies Antje Wolff, Innovation Manager at the Strube Research Centre.

Thanks to Naïo’s robotics expertise and the knowledge of one of the largest sugar beet producers, a new robot is planned for pre-series production in 2022.