Sustainable development goals
  • Clean water and sanitation
  • Industry innovation and infrastructure
  • Life on land
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About the project

BoniRob has been developed by students of the University of Osnabrück together with the companies Bosch and German agricultural company Amazone. BoniRob is an agricultural robot that detects weeds using camera technology and image recognition, and then drives a bolt into the ground to remove the plant.

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BoniRob has been developed since 2008 and reached the second place among the best research projects in the field of robotics at the "2015 euRobotics Technology Transfer Award". BoniRob is no longer just a simple field robot, but its inventors have now developed a whole "app concept" around it.

Algorithms compare the acquired image data with images of various weed species which have been manually categorized. The BoniRob learns over time to distinguish between desired and undesired plants based on parameters such as leaf colour, shape, and size. The robot carries several autonomous and automatic modules: these include a range of soil measurement devices, precision plant spraying tools, plant breeding, and even mechanical weed control applications. Via cameras, the BoniRob can distinguish crops and weeds, the latter being subsequently taken out by metal bolts. Through individual small nozzles on the robot, plant protection and liquid fertilizer can be used precisely. To find its way around the field, the BoniRob is equipped with laser sensors and cameras. In addition, the robots can communicate with a drone which then gives the farmer a visual of the field. 

The research project BoniRob is funded by the Federal Ministry and the Federal Institute for Agriculture and Food. In addition, the EU and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research also support the research. The European Technology Transfer Award was not the first award. In 2012, BoniRob received an award from the initiative "365 Places in the Land of Ideas", and in addition, several students who wrote their dissertations about the project received student awards.

Currently, the working group "autonomous intelligent system" of the institute for computer science of the University of Freiburg under the direction of Professor Wolfram Burgard is working on additional software for the BoniRob. Navigation software is being developed as part of the EU- project "Flourish", in which many European universities collaborate: sensors are used to create a field map, which can then be used to determine the BoniRob position on the field. In the fall, the BoniRob will run for the first time in front of an audience in Rome.

BoniRob enables largely automated resource-conserving agricultural processes, under human supervision. BoniRob aims to reduce the use of chemicals, which ultimately leads to less polluted groundwater. The reduction of pesticides also means that the food quality for the consumer increases. In sum, the BoniRob makes the farming industry more sustainable, it is a cleaner and more environmentally sound technology than conventional fertilisation and therefore supports the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure. It also ensures the conservation of the freshwater ecosystem (Life on Land) ensuring that less chemicals find their way into drinking water (Clean Water and Sanitation). Reducing chemicals in air, water and soil is one of the main objectives of the SDG Responsible Consumption and Production.