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Friday, May 18, 2018

The Intelligent Dodder Weeder

I've been really busy lately at work building BIG machines. My latest creation is the Intelligent Dodder Weeder shown here ambling down the road between fields:



It's 40 feet wide when the wings are down, weighs about 20,000 pounds including the tractor, finds and kills dodder weed in fields of safflower at the rate of about 20 acres an hour, which replaces a crew of roughly 100 people.

With a network of 54 computers with total computational power of 75,000,000,000,000 operations per second (75 teraflops), it processes 720 images per second coming from 36 cameras and identifies the dodder weed using a traditional machine vision algorithm approach coupled with a deep convolutional neural net recognition system. Wherever the weed is found, it's sprayed with an herbicide to kill it.

At this moment in time, it may well be the most advanced mobile agricultural machine in the world in commercial operation. There are probably experimental machines that are at least as advanced, but our Weeder is operating 12 hours per day, 6 days per week in actual working conditions.

It was fun to design and develop this latest machine, but it was a huge amount of work to get it up and running.

11 comments:

erp said...

Holy guacamole Bret, this is fantastic. Congratulations doesn't nearly cut it. Do you ever get a chance to ride on it? What a kick that must be.

We wish you the greatest success.

erp said...

Bret, you'll get a kick out of this. I just read your post to my roomie and he said, "... and I can't even get my email to work." He adds his best wishes to this project and even bigger and better ones in the future.

Bret said...

erp,

Yes, I "get" to ride on it quite a bit while debugging. It's definitely interesting and fulfilling watching it work.

Hey Skipper said...

Wow. And that doesn't even begin to say it.

erp said...

Bret, when I said "get to ride it," I didn't realize that you are the brains and also hands-on in the literal field.

Clovis e Adri said...

Congratulations, Bret - not only for the achievement, but also for creating the closest real thing to a Dr. Seuss machine I've ever seen, both in name and looks!

Bret said...

Huh. And there I thought it looked like that Batmobile! :-)

(As an aside, the main operator's nickname was batman long before he started driving the thing!)

Clovis e Adri said...

BTW, do you really need batman driving it? I guess it is easier to automate that function than any of the other magic things it does...

Bret said...

Yes and no. It would be trivial to automate driving it down the field. The problem is when you get to the end. Even ignoring the ditches and parked cars and people, turning around generally involves going over a bump which means one of the wings has to be lifted slightly or it gets pushed into the ground. Also, there's a bit of a safety issue involved in turning a 20,000 pound gizmo loose. Even a slight malfunction could be a LOT of damage.

Lastly, given the cost of the machine and related finance costs, the cost of the driver, while not trivial, doesn't make that much of a difference.

erp said...

Bret, instead of turning the Bretmobile around, can it not be fitted out to be driven from the front or back like NY subway cars.

Sorry :-( if this is dumbest idea you've ever heard. I have no idea if such a thing would even be possible, but I always thought the old Horn & Hardart ad, "Less Work for Mother," were words to live by.

Bret said...

I guess you could, but I'm not seeing an advantage. It has to move over 40 feet no matter what (to get to a new part of the field) and a 40ft diameter turn is pretty hard to beat efficiency-wise.