WeedBot is a technology company that builds high precision weeding systems for conventional and organic farmers. Their laser weeder uses optical sensors to recognise individual weeds and selectively eliminates them with a directed laser beam. WeedBot’s laser weeder was designed to provide farmers with a solution to reduce the necessity of labour-intensive manual weeding.
Barn4 recently posed some questions to WeedBot’s co-founder and CEO, Janis Jasko. Read on to learn about the WeedBot team and their mission to help farmers and the environment with their technology.
Tell us a little about the team at WeedBot. Does the team have an agritech background? What inspired WeedBot?
We are a team of six founders with backgrounds in robotics (Aldis Pecka), software development (Andrejs Kostromins), machine vision (Kaspars Sudars), electronic development (Vitalijs Osadcuks), mechanical engineering (Vilnis Pirs), biology and plant protection (Janis Jasko). All these skills are necessary to develop WeedBot’s core product: laser weeding machinery. Several of us come from the countryside and have hands-on agricultural experience. In my case, my parents had a small farm when I was growing up; cleaning the barn, milking cows, weeding carrots, and hoeing sugar beet ridges were all part of my childhood. Vilnis and Vitalijs hold PhDs in engineering and teach agricultural engineering to students. I would say that we have quite a unique blend of practical and theoretical knowledge in agritech, and this has helped us a lot so far.
Our team worked together for some time in university to develop high precision weeding solutions. It was at university that we noticed the real potential for laser weeding to become a widely used technology by farmers all around the world. During this time, the idea of setting up a company started to germinate and resulted in WeedBot.
Where did the idea behind WeedBot come from? What is its main mission?
The idea for laser weeding technology came from farmers – they wanted to know if it would be possible to develop a high precision weeding tool suitable for organic farms, that could replace manual weeding. Each year it became much more complicated for them to find the workforce for manual weeding. It resonated with my personal experience, as I spent long hours in my childhood doing manual weeding. I wanted to help farmers to solve this issue. At some point, we discovered that not only would organic farmers benefit from such high precision technology, but conventional farmers could also use it and reduce their herbicide usage.
Our mission is to make agriculture more nature and people friendly. We want to hand over hard manual weeding to mechanical and robotic technologies, so people can perform higher added value tasks. We also want to replace the usage of chemical herbicides with environmentally friendly technology.
What are your hopes for the future development of WeedBot?
I want to keep our initial pace and deliver laser weeding machinery to all interested farmers as soon as possible. I hope that WeedBot will become a globally recognised brand and the first choice for farmers when looking for high precision weeding machinery.
What excites you the most about the agritech industry?
We still use many agricultural technologies that are fifty years old, a hundred years old and even older. There are of course drones, RTK-GPS, self-driving tractors and many more exciting technologies in the field, but there is still a lot of space for innovation. I can see farmers are ready to change the concept of how we manage land and grow food, so I am excited to be part of this new agritech innovation wave.
Why did WeedBot become a Barn4 member?
Barn4 is a great initiative from NIAB. Making bridges between research and the agritech industry is more important than ever. Barn4 offers exactly those services that are necessary for us in the start-up phase, so joining Barn4 was quite natural. We want to not only bring new technologies to the farmers but to do it fast and in high quality. This is why NIAB expertise and services are of high value for us.
For more information about WeedBot, visit their member page or their website. CEO Janis Jasko also recently sat down with Adrian Calma of Innovation Friday podcast. To learn more about WeedBot's team, mission and technology, then listen below.