AI-powered weed hunters could soon reduce the need for herbicides and genetically modified crops.
How it’s done now: Current farming methods involve spraying large amounts of indiscriminate weed killer over fields full of crops that have been genetically tweaked (usually by the same company that makes the weed killer) to resist the chemicals. The pesticide and seed industry is enormous, worth $100 billion globally. Of that, herbicide sales alone account for $26 billion.
The future: Robots like the one created by ecoRobotix (shown above) will be able to roll through fields, using computer vision to target and spray individual weeds as they go. EcoRobotix claims its robo-brigade will decrease total herbicide use by a factor of 20. You might even be able to get a smaller Roomba-esque version for your home garden.
The industry impact: The use of these weed killers isn’t far off. John Deere got in on the tech last year, acquiring the precision spraying startup Blue River, meaning its tractors could be outfitted with weed targeters very soon. Large agrochemical companies are desperately trying to acquire businesses working on similar technologies, in preparation for a decline in demand for their chemicals.
10 Breakthrough Technologies 2024
Every year, we look for promising technologies poised to have a real impact on the world. Here are the advances that we think matter most right now.
Scientists are finding signals of long covid in blood. They could lead to new treatments.
Faults in a certain part of the immune system might be at the root of some long covid cases, new research suggests.
AI for everything: 10 Breakthrough Technologies 2024
Generative AI tools like ChatGPT reached mass adoption in record time, and reset the course of an entire industry.
What’s next for AI in 2024
Our writers look at the four hot trends to watch out for this year
Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review
Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.