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Strategic Elements automation technology to be used in fight against weeds

Subsidiary Stealth Technologies has formed a collaboration with the Australian Herbicide Resistance Initiative and The University of Western Australia School of Agriculture and Environment to automate weed detection and management.

Strategic Elements Ltd - Strategic Elements automation technology to be used in fight against weeds
Weed management is a critical component of crop production systems globally.

Strategic Elements Ltd (ASX:SOR) subsidiary Stealth Technologies has formed a new collaboration in which it will use its leading-edge autonomous technologies in the fight against weeds.

The collaboration with the Australian Herbicide Resistance Initiative (AHRI) and The University of Western Australia School of Agriculture and Environment (UWA) is seeking to automate weed detection and management.

This work has major implications for agriculture with the need for excessive use of chemicals and production loss costs being significant issues at a global level.

Huge cost of weeds

The estimated cost of weeds in Australian cropping systems stands at A$3.3 billion annually while total annual cost in the US is estimated at $US34.5 billion.

Stealth Technologies is developing a device that will automate the capture and integration of multiple forms of data including LIDAR, GPS, IMU and high definition cameras to produce 3D location maps of agricultural weeds.

3D mapping of weeds with highly accurate georeferenced coordinates will enable farmers to target them much more effectively by applying modern agronomy to weed management.

SOR shares were as much as 20% higher to 8.5 cents intra-day.

Automation and robotics technology

To carry out this work Stealth will leverage the sophisticated 3D mapping and localisation technology already built for its AxV Automation & Robotics Platform.

This technology is also used in the Autonomous Security Vehicle being developed under collaboration with Fortune 100 Company Honeywell International Inc (NYSE:HON)

The technology will enable the capture and processing of multiple forms of data to locate and identify weeds amongst a crop whilst a combine harvester is in constant motion.

Multiple applications

Managing director Charles Murphy said: “Our strategy from the start was to build a platform that had applications across multiple industry sectors.

"Security is a huge, global multi-billion-dollar market and we are successfully entering that with Honeywell.

"However, from an Australian domestic market context other sectors like agriculture, logistics and mining also have immediate opportunities.

"We are following the same strategy of collaborating closely with end-users to develop a solution which directly solves an existing problem with automation.

"Our technical team is being superbly led by SOR director Elliot Nicholls."

Working with farmers

Primarily through the work of AHRI, the collaboration has strong relationships with potential end-users, the farmers, who will assist with field testing and provide direct feedback into development of the commercial solution.

AHRI is a leading global researcher in herbicide resistance and its management in cropping systems and is focused on crop science, weed science and herbicide resistance in the Australian grains industry.

Initial fieldwork to detect weeds that protrude above the crop canopy with Stealth Technologies’ existing 3D Mapping and localisation software is underway at a farm in Cunderdin, Western Australia.

Objectives for the remainder of the current quarter:

  • Collect field data from real world farm environments;
  • Analyse data to enhance weed detection and identification technology;
  • Develop Stealth 3D Mapping prototype and test with data collected; and
  • Validate technology by deploying Stealth 3D Mapping device onto a combine harvester during cropping.

Weed management problem

Weed management is a critical component of crop production systems globally.

Herbicides are the primary tool used for weed control in modern agricultural crop production systems, although their overuse has led to rapid evolution of herbicide-resistant weeds.

Glyphosate-resistant weeds have been confirmed in more than 300 cases and include almost 40 species in 28 countries.

Furthermore, some plants can produce hundreds of thousands of seeds, some of which can remain viable in soil for many years.

The slow pace of novel herbicide chemistries being brought to market combined with the rapid increase in multiple resistance in weeds threatens crop production worldwide.

Initial strategy

Stealth’s initial strategy is to avoid the introduction of new machinery or farm practices thereby making a product that is accessible to a larger market segment of customers.

The 3D Mapping Device has been designed to be fitted to a standard combine harvester and automatically capture and integrate data whilst a farmer carries out their existing crop harvesting activities.

These 3D Maps are then available to be simply imported into existing GPS devices or agriculture management software.

Farmers are immediately able to follow up using existing methods of treating weeds and combine this with any modern agronomic methods.

In the future 3D Maps may be used by autonomous ground vehicles or drones, however, to successfully achieve automated weed treatment, the first fundamental step that needs to be solved is low cost, accurate weed detection and identification.

Collaboration partners

UWA and AHRI will provide technical and agronomic expertise associated with weed management and perform the biological component of the work.

UWA will also financially support the research component, through a PhD student, and provide the means such as contacts, transport and field equipment to test the technology in the field.

UWA has the right to use project IP for future research and publication rights of non-confidential information after IP is protected.

Stealth has the right to commercialise project outputs and will collaborate with UWA through the commercialisation phase.

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