The CRA-W evaluates the possibilities of robotisation and automation of mechanical weed control. Are these technologies mature and suitable for vegetable farming in Wallonia?
The control of weeds is a major issue in plant production, all the more important in organic vegetable farming where weeding is mechanical, time-consuming and sometimes manual. The availability of labour is low and its cost high, so mechanical weeding faces a financial brake.
The appearance on the market of weeding robots, mechanical and autonomous, would do away with the use of herbicides and reduce the workforce for arduous tasks.
Weeding robots are already on the market, but their growth remains limited due to many obstacles such as the high price, efficiency, reliability, adaptability to Walloon territory or even the lack of experience feedback.
The objective of the project is to answer the sector's questions.
In order to promote these new technologies, it is therefore necessary to first study, evaluate and validate them under regional conditions. The second step will be to disseminate the results obtained, arrange demonstrations and finally, make these tools available to farmers/vegetable farmers in order to build their ownership step by step.
For the moment, the tests aim to evaluate the performance of autonomy, movement, efficiency and flexibility of the robots (slope, camber, brightness, cultivation, etc.). They are carried out at CRA-W (in vegetable farming and field crops), but also at pioneer farmers associated with the project. A socio-economic assessment will also be carried out taking into account investment and operating costs, ergonomics, arduous work, etc.
Ultimately, the objective is to take stock of the maturity of these technologies as well as an identity card for the robots in order to advise farmers according to their needs.