In a field of sugar beet in Switzerland, a solar-powered robot that looks like a table on wheels scans the rows of crops with its camera, identifies weeds and zaps them with jets of blue liquid from its mechanical tentacles. Undergoing final tests before the liquid is replaced with weedkiller, the Swiss robot is one of new breed of AI weeders that investors say could disrupt the $100billion pesticides and seeds industry by reducing the need for universal herbicides and the genetically modified (GM) crops that tolerate them. Dominated by companies such as Bayer, DowDuPont, BASF and Syngenta, the industry is bracing for the impact of digital agricultural technology and some firms are already adapting their business models. Herbicide sales are worth $26billion a year and account for 46 percent of pesticides revenue overall while 90 percent of GM seeds have some herbicide tolerance built in, according to market researcher Phillips McDougall. 'Some of the profit pools that are now in the hands of the big agrochemical companies will shift, partly to the farmer and partly to the equipment manufacturers,' said Cedric Lecamp, who runs the $1billion Pictet-Nutrition fund that invests in companies along the food supply chain.
May-22-2018, 17:11:56 GMT