RootWave working with Small Robot Company to create a weed zapping autonomous robot

National Trust Wimpole Estate, Cambridgeshire, 5 December 2019 

RootWave and Small Robot Company (SRC), a British agritech start-up for sustainable farming, today announced the world’s first non-chemical precision robotic weeding for cereal crops. Using electricity and artificial intelligence, the ‘Dick’ robot will zap individual weeds using commercially-proven RootWave weed zapping technology. Early field trials are due to commence in 2020.

This is a major technological milestone which will enable automated, precision, per-plant weeding both at scale and autonomously, for the first time providing a post-chemical future for arable farmers.

This world-leading innovation is funded by the government’s Innovate UK grant programme, with more than £1 million funding committed to date. Working together in partnership with British start up RootWave, Small Robot Company has successfully completed development of its ‘Dick’ non-chemical weeding robot prototype to in-lab proof of concept stage, Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 4.0. An initial prototype will go into field trials in 2020, with the commercial weed zapping service anticipated to be available from autumn 2021.

With up to 95% of chemicals wasted in the current farming system, this new non-chemical weeding technology will be significantly more nature-friendly and better for biodiversity.

“This is truly a world-first. For the first time, we can see each plant in the field – and every single weed. Instead of spraying the whole field, we can simply zap the individual weeds,” says Sam Watson-Jones, co-founder, Small Robot Company. “Farmers are integral to the environmental solution. It’s crucial that we’re working on farm to develop our technology, to ensure it delivers real benefits in field. Together, we’re creating the ultimate sustainable farming model.”

Andrew Diprose, CEO, RootWave comments, “Our technology uses electricity to zap weeds with zero chemicals. Increased regulation, herbicide resistance, and consumer concerns are all intensifying the urgency to find an environmental solution. Partnering with Small Robot Company means we can automate our weed zapping to operate at farm-scale.”

Calum Murray, Innovate UK’s Head of Agriculture & Food, said “It’s fantastic to see how Innovate UK’s funding has brought together British start up RootWave and Small Robot Company to develop game changing technologies that will revolutionize the agriculture sector. This innovative technology will allow farmers for the first time ever to use non-chemical precision robotic weeding for cereal, whilst saving energy and reducing costs. At Innovate UK, we are proud to be supporting thetransformation of the UK’s food production systems, improving productivity and sustainability, and helping the industry move towards achieving net zero emissions by 2040.”

Groundbreaking customer trials: Waitrose and the National Trust

Initial customers include the National Trust Wimpole Estate and Waitrose Leckford Estate farms, who are both already trialling SRC’s first commercial weed mapping service, which uses SRC’s ‘Tom’ monitoring robot to first locate the weeds. Both farms have been key partners in SRC’s work to develop its sustainable farming technology. Trials will take place on 20 UK farms through 2020.

Callum Weir, farm manager of the 1,500 acre (600 hectare) organic farm on the Wimpole Estate, says: “The key advantage of this groundbreaking technology is that it will enable us to be much more precise and targeted in controlling weeds, therefore helping us to increase crop yields and biodiversity.  It is also lightweight, helping reduce compaction of soils – a consequence of using traditional tractors – which will help improve soil health.”

Andrew Hoad, Partner & Head of Waitrose’s Leckford Estate, comments: “This technology could be truly groundbreaking and has the potential to shape how we farm in the future. By helping us be more precise and targeted in controlling weeds and managing pests, this next generation of farming robots could in turn help us protect biodiversity on our land and preserve the natural environment for future generations.”

RootWave non-chemical weeding

With pressure increasing from regulators and herbicide resistant weeds, RootWave has developed a scalable and sustainable alternative to herbicides. This provides the core technology for SRC’s new weed-zapping robots.  The technology is sustainable, no-till and cost comparable with herbicides. Automating this technology at scale will bring significant cost savings for farmers.

Rootwave uses electricity to kill weeds. Electricity is applied to a weed where the natural resistance of the weed transforms the electrical energy into heat which boils it inside out from the root upwards.  This kills the weed after which the plant naturally decomposes, returning its nutrients to the soil. RootWave treats deep into the roots, making it possible to treat any weed, including tough invasive species such as Giant Hogweed and Japanese Knotweed.

RootWave’s technology is already commercially available as a professional hand-weeder designed for growers, gardeners and groundskeepers to spot weed and treat invasive species. This is in use in municipal, commercial and heritage sites, such as parks, football grounds and gardens, with customers including English Heritage, the Environment Agency, and the National Trust.

RootWave has won a £1million UK Government Innovate UK grant to scale its technology across different crop types and weeding platforms, including the Small Robot Company’s autonomous robots. The other major partner is SFM Technologies who are using RootWave technology to develop a tractor-pulled clearance weeder for fruit crops . These integrations will help enable electrical weed control technology to be adopted as a scalable and sustainable alternative to herbicides.

RootWave named as one of the UK’s most disruptive companies

RootWave is delighted to have been named as one of the top 50 most disruptive companies in the UK in the 2019 Disruption Index which highlights and celebrates those businesses innovating and leading the way in our rapidly changing world.

RootWave wins silver for the Innovation Award at GroenTechniek

RootWave is proud to have won silver in the Gouden Klavertje Vier Innovation Awards at GroenTechniek in Holland 2019, the Netherlands’ largest trade fair for professionals in the public green and grey area.  The jury of experts concluded that “Electric and sustainable, those are the trends in innovations” for the eleven innovations nominated for the Gouden Klavertje Vier Innovation Awards.

RootWave finalist in Future Food Awards

RootWave is delighted to have been selected as a finalist for the Future Food Awards in the Food Tech Innovation category.  The Future Food Awards were launched to uncover the most exciting innovations in food and drink today.  A team sifted through hundreds of entries to land on just a few businesses that offer a taste of what’s to come.

RootWave starts to ship professional hand-weeder

RootWave shipped its first of several bulk orders of RootWave Pro’s to the Netherlands where there is huge interest in the award-winning professional hand-weeder designed for growers, gardeners and groundskeepers to spot weed and treat invasive species.

Exmoor National Park selects RootWave Pro to help it eradicate invasive species

The new Exmoor Non-Native Invasives Species (ENNIS) project – a partnership between Exmoor National Park Authority, Environment Agency, National Trust, Natural England and Nicky Green Associates – will allow work to control invasive species in the National Park to be radically scaled up and extended to new species.

After an extended trial on Japanese Knotweed and Giant Hogweed, the ENNIS team selected RootWave Pro as their preferred product for controlling invasive non-native species of weed.

Project leader Ali Hawkins, wildlife conservation officer at Exmoor National Park Authority, said: “All over the country our native species are in trouble. Urgent action to curb the spread of invasive species and restore protected habitats is vital to stop the problem escalating. This crucial project will allow us to ramp up our volunteer effort and appoint a dedicated project officer, as well as extending our ground-breaking trials using electrocution to destroy the root system of problem plants.”

Non-native invasive species are a major threat to sensitive habitats throughout the UK, costing the British economy an estimated £1.7 billion a year, according to the GB non-native species secretariat.

RootWave wins Innovate UK Grant

RootWave wins a £417k UK Government Innovate UK grant to create the next generation of professional hand-weeder.

RootWave wins Innovate UK Grant

RootWave wins a £986k UK Government Innovate UK grant to scale its technology across different crop types and weeding platforms.

Financial Times discusses a future without chemicals with RootWave

There is growing evidence that the use of chemicals in agriculture is harmful to both the environment and human health. Maija Palmer discusses potential alternatives in a podcast with Helen Browning, chief executive of the Soil Association, Adam Speed of the Crop Protection Association and Andrew Diprose, chief exec of Rootwave, a startup that uses electricity to kill weeds.

RootWave Pro to be used at English Heritage’s Organic Kitchen Garden

English Heritage are delighted to announce that they are adopting RootWave Pro as the main method of weed control at Audley End House & Gardens after two successful years of trials within the Organic Kitchen Garden.

The Kitchen Garden at Audley End House & Gardens is Soil Association certified Organic, and the fruit, herbs and vegetables grown in the garden are sold on site, used in the café and supplied to The Cambridge Organic Food Company.

Managing weeds in an organic garden without using chemicals is a major challenge as it typically involves weeding by hand which is extremely labour intensive and often results in roots being left in the ground to regrow.

RootWave Pro uses electricity to boil weeds inside out, from the root upwards without disturbing the soil. It is a sustainable and economical solution helping organisations around the world to manage their weeds without chemicals.

Christopher Weddell, Senior Gardens Advisor, Gardens & Landscape Team at English Heritage comments “Being able to effectively and quickly treat perennial weeds, growing close to the fruit and vegetable crops, has greatly improved the presentation of the garden and helped the team save time and effort that can be devoted to more productive tasks.

Andrew Diprose, CEO RootWave, comments “We are absolutely delighted that English Heritage has joined a growing list of organisations that are choosing RootWave Pro to organically manage their weeds and reduce costs.