The ‘Roomba’ of Gardening: Tertill Is A Robot That Weeds

Franklin Robotics ‘Tertill’ promises to weed your garden for you

Last year was a particularly big one for weeds, with many of us struggling in vain to control them in our gardens. But thankfully, just in time for next summer, there’s an invention that just might alleviate this tiresome chore. It’s called Tertill and it proposes to do the weeding for you.

HOW TERTILL WORKS

Developed by Franklin Robotics, Tertill is the first weeding robot created especially for home gardens. Similar to the Roomba (whose inventor, Joe Jones is a key part of the Franklin Robotics team), the waterproof robot patrols your garden on four little wheels just like a mini all-terrain vehicle.

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Early model Tertill at work at San Mateo’s Maker Faire

Tertill is programmed to identify a weed as any plant that is small enough to pass under it (a distance of about 1 inch.) As it travels over the offending plants, it lops off their heads using a tiny weed whacker. According to the company’s website, a proprietary algorithm ensures Tertill finds and eliminates as many weeds as possible.

(If you are curious about what happens to seedlings, the company plans to supply wire loops that signal to the robot to avoid them.)

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Wire loops around seedlings signal to Tertill to avoid them

Tertill is designed to live in your garden. As it goes about its business of eliminating weeds, its sensors help it avoid other plants as well as other obstacles. There’s no need to charge a battery because the robot spends the day collecting sunlight via a solar panel on its back. When it runs out of power, it simply takes a break and recharges.

STILL IN DEVELOPMENTAL STAGES

Of course, simply whacking off the heads of the weeds leaves the roots behind. And as all of us know, the weeds will grow back. However, if the task is being performed on a constant basis, it remains to be seen whether that matters ultimately to the health of the other plants.

One interesting side benefit of a weeding robot is that it essentially eliminates the need for garden pesticides. That’s a definite plus.

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It’s important to remove the roots when weeding

A FUTURE FAMILY OF ROBOTS

Franklin Robotics envisions future applications for Tertill to include creating a system of complementary robots that could give individual care to large numbers of plants while providing their growers with feedback (via cell phone) on plant and soil health. The mobile robots could also be designed to pick off garden pests (think Japanese beetles!), dose micronutrients at specified times as well as prune buds and branches for maximum plant yields.

In my view, one of the key attractions of Tertill is that its constant movement around the garden may scare off pesky animals like deer and rabbits as they approach. I’d say that alone is a good reason to invest.

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Tertill may end up eliminating pests in the garden

For now, the biggest obstacle for the weeding robot remains how to recognize the difference between a desired plant and a weed. Let’s hope they get that sorted out before the launch.

Tertill is set to go on sale this summer for between $250 and $300. For more information on Tertill and Franklin Robotics, click here for the official site and product info.

What do you think about Tertill and its potential uses? Leave your comments here and join in the discussion.

 

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