A year ago, Valentin Goutouly, a young organic vegetable grower, welcomed the Oz weeding robot to his farm. His parents are to retire soon and Valentin has one ambition: he wants to develop his organic farm while gaining time by getting rid of the mechanical hoeing process.
Valentin’s organic vegetable farm : a family story
Valentin took over the farm in 2018. “Le Jardin de Valentin” is located in Saint Georges in the French Lot-et-Garonne department. The farm is part of his family’s history: Valentin is the 4th generation. Valentin’s family used to grow cereal, with a rotating tobacco crop. But also asparagus.
And it’s the asparagus crop that pushed Valentin towards organic vegetables. He started out with diversified organic crops of fava beans, radishes, zucchini and artichokes. He now has 2.5 hectares of vegetable crops and also grows 1.5 hectares of tobacco.
Weeding with a hoe: efficient but time-consuming
Since 2018, “Le Jardin de Valentin” sells the vegetables directly to consumers and had a very promising first season. Harvesting, selling, administration… Valentin still works with his parents but he lacks the time to hoe every plot regularly. Hoeing is efficient to keep the farm’s weeds under control as most crops are grown in rows. However, when the weeding needs to be done every 10 days, time quickly runs out, especially in full season. Last year, it was impossible for Valentin to use the hoe for over a month and it took him a full week to bring his crops’s weed levels back to a more acceptable state.
“A robot to weed vegetable rows… and save time!”
Valentin discovered the Oz mechanical weeding robot during a demonstration : “I was really amazed at this completely autonomous tool, that could weed a plot while I took care of harvesting“, comments the young farmer. “The way my crops were sowed in rows, like the leeks, cabbages or celery, everything was perfectly laid out for the robot.” Valentin decides to purchase Oz after having met the Naïo Technologies team at several trade shows.
“I wasn’t worried about learning how to handle the robot, my generation is used to new technologies. All it takes is a half day of training with Mathilde, Naïo Technologies Technical Advisor for the South of France, to learn how to master the robot.”
At the start, the Naïo team guided Valentin to program the robot. Then came the stage of plot preparation. “This step is essential and really needs to be done properly for the robot to be able to weed everywhere. This requires some trial and error at first, but that’s only normal. The crops and turnaround area need to be properly prepared. After that, everything works fine! You can also ask the Naïo team: they’re easy to reach and very understanding, which is always reassuring.”
And why not use Oz to weed tobacco ?
“I’d now like to test the robot on the tobacco crops. Today, we weed everything mechanically, without using pesticides. The crops are aligned, with a relatively wide inter-row space. I’m thinking there’s enough room for the robot to pass through in order to help me save even more time. It took me 120 hours last year to do the mechanical weeding. This way, my investment would even be more profitable.” A crazy bet? Maybe not.
To be followed!
For more information on the Oz robot: https://www.naio-technologies.com/en/agricultural-equipment/weeding-robot-oz/
Valentin’s website : https://www.facebook.com/jardindevalentin/