FOR YEARS smart spraying technologies in Australia have been dominated by WEEDit and WeedSeeker, systems that work on identifying green material on brown through cameras.
The technology has worked admirably in allowing farmers to cut their summer weed or knockdown spray bills by only putting out spray where there is a weed, but there has always been the wistful desire from growers for something that could do the same job in crop.
A French ag-tech business has come up with the next generation of solutions to the problem, with a camera system that can identify problem weeds in a green paddock.
Guillaume Jourdain, founder of Bilberry, said his company had done trial work which had identified dock weed in pasture in the Netherlands, and more importantly from an Australian perspective wild radish in wheat.
He said the results were especially good for radish when it was flowering.
The system works using a complicated algorithm which firstly gathers the data, then sorts and labels it.
The algorithm is then showing the training set thousands of times so it can learn the pattern of when the weed is appearing.
Mr Jourdain said the method was then tested before Bilberry went to the apddock for field trials.
He said it had been a long and laborious process.
"It never works the first time, it takes time to get it right."
On a farm level the system is relatively similar to other camera sprayers with cameras fitted on the boom and the boom opening and shutting according to whether a weed is sensed.
Mr Jourdain said Australia was now a focus for the company, due to the huge interest from growers for green on green spraying.
He said there were big benefits in terms of dropping the chemical bill and reducing the risk of herbicide resistance, but added there were limitations the farmer would have to work on.
"They might find it works really well on 90 per cent of the farm but for some reason not so well on 10pc.
"From there we may need to retrain the algorithm but the important thing is to let the developers of the camera know so we can work on it."
The big savings will occur in paddocks with relatively sparse, but economically significant weed populations, where spray costs can be cut by up to 90pc.
In larger weed populations there is less value in having spray cutting in and out as there are more weeds, meaning a steadier flow of chemical needs to go out.
Further down the track Australian growers are hoping for technology to identify grass weeds in cereal crops, but as they look much more similar to the crop it will be a more difficult task.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.