Greenfield Robotics innovates in ag with chemical-free weed control

Greenfield Robotics

Clint Brauer grew up farming with his dad in Kansas.

He did not enjoy farming at all and after graduating from K-State, made his way to Los Angeles to work. After spending 13 years in tech, Clint set out to bring the Wichita area an organic alternative, with the thought that his tech background might be useful in the move to farm without chemicals.

Brauer began by growing vegetables and building a greenhouse, never using a single chemical in the greenhouse or on vegetables outdoors. The goal then became application of what was learned on broadacre crops such as soybeans, corn, milo and wheat.  The challenge at that type of scale was controlling weeds without chemicals.

Some friends persuaded him that no-till farming had a lot of benefits, so he proceeded to try and figure out how to make chemical-free, no-till farming work.

“Weed control is difficult to accomplish in broadacre farming,” said Brauer. “Tilling the soil is expensive, time consuming, results in erosion, and can negatively affect soil quality. Organic herbicides don’t work well. Even chemicals risk rates are rising alongside the costs of chemical controls.

He added, “A few years ago I decided to develop a robotics weed control solution for organic production that avoids the problems of both tillage and chemicals, as well as the health and financial risks to farmers.”

Having learned the limitations of available organic farming methods, Brauer was ready to validate his idea. He recruited two former colleagues with the engineering experience needed to build the prototype, Steven Genter and Carl Sutter. They started Greenfield Robotics in 2018 and are testing utilizing the latest generation of prototypes on Brauer’s farmland.

The company is based in Cheney, where Brauer runs MG Honor Farms, an active farm that serves as a laboratory for testing production methods and marketing for both the MG Honor Farms label and Canidae Pet Foods. They are adding partner farms in Kansas, Colorado, and Nebraska for both Greenfield Robotics and the supply chain they are building for Canidae.

“Our robotics approach is unique; it provides a solution for problems encountered by both organic and conventional farmers,” said Brauer. “One is weather – spraying depends on favorable conditions, which can cause delays. Our robots can operate when it would be too wet to spray, and farmers can deploy our robots when the ground could not support heavy equipment. The second problem we address is weed resistance over time with commonly used herbicides. We believe our technology provides a path to improved margins, a bridge to chemical-free farming, and ultimately, a more sustainable method of weed control.”

Greenfield Robotics is developing robots that are small and light enough to be manually lifted from a truck or trailer by one person. The robots will utilize teleoperations this summer as the company continues to add automation throughout the summer. This means the team can steer the robot remotely through the Internet. The company plans to launch the platform this summer.

Brauer is confident about the future of his robotics technology for the ag industry.

“I believe our farm is unique in that we operate across many categories of farming including veggies and herbs, broadacre crops and now proteins,” he said. “I’ve learned enough to know that the opportunity for robotics across all those business lines is massive. While we are starting with weed control in broadacre crops, it’s the tip of the iceberg.”

 

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