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A rendering of the new weed management technology from the Rootwave/Garford partnership.

RootWave partners with precision equipment maker Garford to develop new weed management tech for row crops

June 12, 2024

  • UK-based RootWave, which makes an autonomous weeding system for agriculture, announced it is partnering with Garford, a fellow UK startup best known for its mechanical weed control products for row crops.
  • The two companies will co-develop new weeding technologies and products for both the UK and international agricultural markets.
  • The partnership already has concepts for 3m- and 6m-wide products, with a plan for larger machines in the future.
Image credit: Rootwave

‘A natural choice’ for weed management innovation

“RootWave and Garford are both UK firms solving the same problem – how to weed effectively at a low cost without chemical herbicides,” RootWave CEO Andrew Diprose tells AgFunderNews, adding that the decision to join forces was “a natural choice” for the companies.

The companies’ goal is to develop a weeding solution that competes — on both cost and efficiency — with herbicides in row crops.

“RootWave gets access to the largest markets in the world through Garford’s manufacturing and global distribution and Garford gets access to RootWave’s superior eWeeding technology.”

The RootWave machine, which hitches to the back of a trailer and currently works in fruit orchards, passes an electrical current through weeds, turning the energy into heat and, in Diprose’s words, “boiling the weed inside out from the root up.”

Garford, established back in 1986, launched its Robocrop Precision Guided Hoe in 2001 and has since established a foothold in agricultural markets all over the world. The system uses cameras and image analysis to locate crops and guide hoeing and weed prevention more efficiently.

Among the benefits of this technology are its ability to conserve moisture in soil and save on fuel, since the system can precisely identify weeds versus crops.

Garford’s Robocrop Spot Hoe. Image credit: Garford

‘Commercially viable’ weed management systems

The two companies will combine their existing technologies to “bring new products to market for vegetables, cereals and row-crops,” with concepts for 3m- and 6m-wide products in the works and “larger machines to follow thereafter,” says Diprose.

“It will alleviate the worries of farmers who are faced with an uncertain future where they don’t know if herbicides will be available, or will even be effective due to safety and resistance issues.”

Plants have become more tolerant over time to herbicides such as Glyphosate, making them harder to kill, to say nothing of the environmental risks of the chemicals. On top of that, growers are subject to restrictions about where and when they can spray, and new regulatory restrictions around herbicides.

“Today, farmers have an imperfect choice to make between spraying or hoeing,” notes Diprose. “With spraying, there are two fundamental issues. The first being reduced product efficacy due to building natural resistance. The second being decreased product choice due to regulatory restrictions in response to health and environmental concerns.

“Farmers are naturally worried about their future because they no longer have certainty. With hoeing, farmers can damage the very soils they depend on for their future livelihood. eWeeding solves both these problems as it allows farmers to kill weeds organically and regeneratively, and because it is highly effective, it will also save farmers money.”

In the immediate future, RootWave‘s technology will be integrated into a Garford solution for row-crops, says Diprose.

“With the increasingly stringent controls over the use of chemical weed management, alongside resistance issues, we can support UK and global agriculture as it embraces its environmental responsibilities,” adds Garford managing director Jonathan Henry.

“Combining our technologically advanced precision guided weed control solutions with the benefits of RootWave’s high frequency alternating current electrical weeding technology, we can create commercially viable and effective solutions to growers, as a key part of a sustainable, integrated weed management system.”

A rendering of the new weed management technology from the Rootwave/Garford partnership.

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