German multinationals BASF and Bosch are to further their co-operation in the development of digital agriculture based on BASF’s xarvio digital platform.

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The companies have now set up a project centre to undertake joint research and development activities at the same location. Since 2016, employees of the two companies have worked together on the smart spraying project, a technology for precise herbicide application that significantly reduces the total amount of herbicide used. The market launch of Smart Spraying is planned for 2021, and the businesses now plan more joint activities.

Andrew Allen, who is responsible for the Commercial Vehicles and Off-Road operating unit at Robert Bosch comments: “Bringing the team members together in a dedicated centre of competence pools their expertise and increases the potential for synergies as a result of the direct channels of communication and co-ordination within the project group.”

Bosch and xarvio’s Smart Spraying concept focuses on the precise application of herbicides in the field to control weeds. With the Smart Spraying solution, Bosch and xarvio provide a smart system that can differentiate a weed from a crop plant and can apply herbicides in a targeted manner. The companies claim that Smart Spraying finds, detects and sprays weeds within milliseconds. As the sprayer passes over the field, its on-board cameras record the vegetation over the entire area and a smart spraying management system analyses the sensor signals online and identifies the presence of a crop plant or weed. The system then controls the sprayer jets and applies the herbicide as needed. Weed-free areas remain herbicide-free. The entire procedure: scanning, identification, and application, takes just a few milliseconds and is performed in a single processing step.

Bosch’s focus in the research and development co-operation is on the camera sensor technology, image processing and pattern recognition, control units, and system connectivity. “In daily practical use in the field, the field sprayer with the Smart Spraying technology is connected to the xarvio Field Manager, which uses various parameters to determine precisely which and how much plant protection product the respective crop needs,” explains Tobias Menne, head of BASF Digital Farming.

Initial field trials with prototypes in Europe and in South and North America have returned “extremely positive” results. “One of the next steps on the road to readying the system for the market is optimisation of the sprayer’s resolution to achieve even more precise herbicide application,” notes Mr Allen.