RoboDUCK built by Nissan engineer could be used in Japan to keep rice paddy fields free from pests and weeds
- Rice farmers in Asia have used ducks as a natural alternative to pesticides.
- Ducks tear up weeds and eat insects, with their manure acting as fertiliser
- Scepticism about pesticide use in farming has grown over time in the country
- The Aigamo robot, named after Aigamo ducks uses two rotating rubber brushes on its underside which oxygenate and prevent weeds from taking root
An engineer working for Japanese carmaker Nissan has built a robot to help farmers reduce the use of herbicides and pesticides on their rice crops.
The compact robot, called Aigamo, is designed to mimic the natural use of ducks that paddle around in flooded paddy fields.
Ducks have been used as natural weed repellents for centuries to tear them up and feed on insects, with their manure even acting as an additional fertiliser.
HOW DOES THE AIGAMO ROBOT WORK?
A small white robot patrols the rice paddies.
As it glides through the water, two mechanisms on the bottom muddy the water to prevent weeds from getting enough sunlight to grow.
The technique was used in the late 20th century with live ducks, called ‘aigamo,’ which would paddle the water with the same results and eat any insects they found along the way.
It also oxygenates the water by stirring it up and preventing weeds from taking root.
Scepticism about the outcomes of pesticide use has grown over time in the country.
High costs for chemical products as well as the negative effects they have on the environment have prompted manufacturers to come up with other methods.
The Aigamo robot prototype, named after the ducks of the same name, is being tested right now in the Yamagata Prefecture in northeastern Japan.
It weighs 3.3 lbs (1.5 kilograms) and is about the size of a large robot vacuum cleaner.
Using two rotating rubber brushes on its underside which take the place of a duck’s feet, it oxygenates the water by stirring it up and preventing weeds from taking root.
The Aigamo robot uses Wi-Fi, batteries, solar power, and GPS to navigate the fields.
Using two rotating rubber brushes on its underside which take the place of a duck’s feet, it oxygenates the water by stirring it up and preventing weeds from taking root
The Aigamo robot uses wi-fi, batteries, solar power, and GPS to navigate the fields. Inventions like this could help protect rice farming in Japan, which is threatened by declining consumption and an ageing population
Inventions like this could help protect rice farming in Japan, which is threatened by declining consumption and an ageing population.
Problems with pesticides seemed, for instance, not to prevent the appearance of nasty insects, and their stings were causing even more trouble.
Thus, considering the farmers’ and consumers’ health motivated scientists and practitioners to look for alternative methods.
Two-week-old Aigamo ducklings are introduced into a rice paddy about one or two weeks after the seedlings have been planted.
The number of ducklings can vary and are left in the fields all the time, where they can range completely free, according to a study.
There aren’t any plans for commercialisation or even any data on how effective it is, but it’s being hailed as a fascinating use of technology.
HOW HAVE PESTICIDES AFFECTED THE BEE POPULATION?
Declines in recent months to honey bee numbers and health caused global concern due to the insects’ critical role as a major pollinator.
Bee health has been closely watched in recent years as nutritional sources available to honey bees have declined and contamination from pesticides has increased.
In animal model studies, the researchers found that combined exposure to pesticide and poor nutrition decreased bee health.
Bees use sugar to fuel flights and work inside the nest, but pesticides decrease their hemolymph (‘bee blood’) sugar levels and therefore cut their energy stores.
When pesticides are combined with limited food supplies, bees lack the energy to function, causing survival rates to plummet.
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