Agricultural weeds remain an important production constraint, with labor shortages and a lack of new herbicide options in recent decades making the problem even more acute. Robotic weeding machines are a possible solution to these increasingly intractable weed problems. Franklin Robotics' Tertill™ is an autonomous weeding robot designed for home gardeners that relies on a minimalistic design to be cost-effective. The objectives of this study were to investigate the ability of the Tertill to control broadleaf and grass weeds, and based on early observations, experiments were conducted with and without its string-trimmer–like weeding implement. Tertill demonstrated high weed-control efficacy, supporting its utility as a tool for home gardeners. Weeds were best controlled by the combined effect of soil disturbance caused by the action of the robot's wheels and the actuation of the string trimmer. Despite the regrowth potential of an annual grass due to its meristem location, Tertill maintained low densities of millet in an experimental arena. The simple and effective design of the Tertill may offer insights to inform future development of farm-scale weeding robots. Weed density, emergence periodicity, robot working rate, and robotic weeding mechanisms are important design criteria regardless of the technology used for plant detection.
Nomenclature: Pearl millet; Pennisetum glaucum (L.) R. Br.