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Robot on the cutting edge of improving organic farming

Strawberries are a crop often targeted by all kinds of pests. “We're focusing on strawberries,” said Adam Stager of TRIC Robotics. “The pests that we're treating against, it's specifically spider mites, powdery mildew and gray mold.”

Usually, getting rid of those pests would involve using chemical pesticides. However, for organic farmers, that’s out of the question. That is why TRIC Robotics came up with a solution. It is a self-roving robot is treating the plants with ultraviolet light. Used several times a week, it illuminates crops with UV light, killing the pests, with no impact on the crop.

“It just goes up and down the rows, carrying the lights in a very specific way, so that we can use the light in place of the chemicals,” said Stager, founder of TRIC Robotics, which created the robot.

With funding from the National Science Foundation and working with researchers from the USDA, the robot is now being deployed at test pilot farms in California, West Virginia, and at the University of Delaware’s agriculture research center.

“What's great is that it has a DNA mechanism that basically inactivates the way that the pests reproduce,” Stager said. “So, we can effectively eliminate the need for chemicals because we can affect the way the plants, the pathogens on the plants, affect the yields.”



Photo source: Scripps National

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