Acrai is the winner of the 2018 Galileo Masters Bavaria regional challenge. The Munich-based startup has the vision to make agriculture more sustainable and efficient. The founders develop robots, which replace chemical weed killers with mechanical tools. Their system uses computer vision based on deep learning to detect and localise plants. In combination with a purely mechanical weed removal tool, they can fully automate this process.
Today’s agriculture relies heavily on herbicides (chemical weed killers) and therefore faces several major problems. The development of new selective herbicides has been halted by manufacturers, as the costs and risks of development are uneconomically high. At the same time the awareness of unknown long-term consequences for humans and the environment leads to ever stricter legal restrictions and prohibitions. The biggest problem for farmers is the increasing incidence of resistances: weeds that have developed chances of survival, which renders herbicides useless.
Acrai develops autonomous agricultural robots that solve all the problems mentioned to the benefit of conventional and organic agriculture, as well as of humans and the environment. Its system combines deep-learning-based computer vision for detecting and localising crops with the automation of proven, purely mechanical methods of weed removal. The solution relies heavily on the use of GNSS to navigate and relocate robots on the field. With the support of ESA BIC Bavaria, Acrai was able to develop sophisticated robot prototypes and run them on a leased field next to their workshop in Garching. First tests on organic land in spring 2018 already showed the great approval and acceptance of the farmers.
“After winning the Galileo Masters Bavaria regional challenge and being accepted in the E-GNSS Accelerator, we have tested their robots in spring 2019 in Spain. With the accelerator’s support, the autonomous capabilities of our robot, using satellite navigation, were extensively tested and enhanced,” explains Andreas Plieninger, Co-Founder from Acrai.
The team is currently working on improving the durability and precision of the weeding equipment while at the same time trying to bring down the costs in order to make it available for all farmers.
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The Galileo Masters serves as an accelerating instrument for space‐related entrepreneurs and startups, providing Europe with ground‐breaking novelties. With prizes worth more than EUR 1 million up for grabs across 18 Regional Challenges, 6 Special Prize Challenges and 2 brand-new Class prizes, there’s definitely an opportunity for you. Submit your innovative Satellite Navigation solution to the competition by 31 July 2019.
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