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Collaboration to focus on targeted spraying

Photos courtesy of Agco Fendt Rogator sprayer with new technology designed to allow for targeted spraying of weeds
TESTING A CONCEPT: This Fendt Rogator sprayer is decked out with new technology to target weeds during the season. It’s a testbed for new tools from three other partners, and the goal is to evaluate the tech in a real-world setting.
Agco is partnering with Bosch, BASF Digital Farming and Raven Industries in a proof-of-concept program for new technology.

Bringing new technology to market often means clearing significant hurdles ranging from determining how to sell a new tool to ways that innovation might be put to work. A new collaboration between some major ag players is working to bring targeted spraying technology to market.

Recently, Agco announced it has joined with BASF Digital Farming, Bosch and Raven Industries to work on the concept. Matt Rushing, vice president for Crop Care at Agco, talked with Farm Progress about the collaboration and what it means for farmers.

“The benefit of working with all these different partners is that it accelerates the learning for us,” Rushing said. He outlined some of the strengths for each of the players.

For Bosch, the company has developed perception and lighting technology for a spray boom. BASF and its Xarvio group (which partnered with Bosch in 2020) has developed a real-time, field-specific agronomy decision-making engine. The system identifies weeds and diseases on the go. And the Raven Applied Technology team brings pulse-width-modulation precision spray control.

The idea of spraying just the weed, not the crop, has been the focus of other startups, and there is a competitive commercial application for 2022 for use in summer fallow. Agco is working with its partners in 2021 to do proof-of-concept work on this technology. Will it work as advertised in the field? What other issues need to be ironed out before its ready for prime time?

“We expect to have a defined set of criteria that will be reviewed, based on customer benefits,” Rushing said. “We’ll be looking at customer [return on investment] and Agco ROI, and we’ll use that criteria for a go, no-go decision on how we’ll deploy [the technology] and when we’ll deploy it.”

At work in Europe

Field testing is underway in Europe, where Bosch and Xarvio are based. The collaborators are assessing the controls, application and use of targeted spraying, and they’re heading right to the heart of the market: killing green weeds in a green and growing crop.

Sprayer with new technology designed to allow for targeted spraying of weedsNORTH AMERICAN PLANS: While Europe is the starting point for the targeted spraying tests with Agco, Bosch, Xarvio and Raven, the companies plan to continue testing in North America in 2022.

“It’s a significant amount of technology and connectivity, which is super-critical as well,” Rushing said. “Making sure you have all this working in concert is very important. We definitely see the opportunity for reduction in chemical use, but we’re seeing some opportunities to improve productivity as well.”

He noted that the system can operate at night, enhancing the amount of time farmers can apply crop protection products. In addition, the system may reduce the number of passes needed through a field. Both innovations can boost productivity.

It’s the combination of reducing the use of crop protection products and adding productivity that will play into the ROI calculations. Just cutting chemical use may not be enough to justify the cost of the system. Rushing noted that Europe is ahead of the curve in looking at crop protection product use, and comprehensive control systems with targeted spraying are getting attention.

The test machine for European work is a Fendt Rogator sprayer, but there are plans to extend testing to North America in 2022.

“One of the things that’s driving us right now is some government initiatives in the European Union looking at farm-to-fork,” Rushing said. “This makes it a priority to start [testing] in that region.”

He added that the system will be tested in “other markets for validation, for deployment in other regions.”

The collaboration is moving ahead at a solid pace, and Rushing noted they’ll have information to share as early as 2022 at Agritechnica, the big European farm show.

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