Pooled development fund Strategic Elements (ASX: SOR) has announced its subsidiary Stealth Technologies will leverage existing 3D mapping and localisation technology to develop an automated weed detection and management device.
Later on Monday, Strategic Elements also announced a share purchase plan to assist funding of this new development.
Stealth will collaborate with the Australian Herbicide Resistance Initiative (AHRI) and the University of Western Australia’s School of Agriculture and Environment (UWA) on the creation of the device, which will automate the capture and integration of multiple forms of data to produce 3D location maps of agricultural weeds.
Under the terms of the collaboration, AHRI (which is focussed on crop science, weed science and herbicide resistance in the Australian grains industry) and UWA will provide technical and agronomic expertise associated with weed management and perform the biological component of the work.
UWA will financially support the research component and provide the means (including contacts, transport and equipment) to test the technology in the field.
It also has the right to use project intellectual property (IP) for future research and publication rights of non-confidential information after the IP is protected.
Stealth retains the right to commercialise project outputs and will collaborate with UWA through this phase.
The collaboration has strong relationships with potential end users including farmers who will assist with field testing and provide direct feedback into development of the commercial solution.
Initial fieldwork has commenced at a farm in Cunderdin, 156km east of Perth, to detect weeds that protrude above crop canopies.
Weed management is a critical component of crop production systems around the world.
Herbicides (glyphosate) are the primary tool used for weed control on modern farms, although their overuse has led to the rapid evolution of herbicide-resistant weeds.
These weeds have been confirmed in more than 300 cases across almost 40 species in 28 countries.
Furthermore, some plants can produce hundreds of thousands of seeds, some of which can remain viable in soil for many years.
The slow pace of novel herbicide chemistries being brought to market, combined with the rapid increase in resistant weeds, threatens crop production worldwide.
Stealth’s 3D mapping device with accurate geo-referenced coordinates will enable farmers to target weeds more effectively by applying modern agronomy to weed management.
The same technology is being used in the company’s autonomous security vehicle being developed for the correctional justice sector (i.e. prisons), in collaboration with Fortune 100 company Honeywell.
It will enable the capture and processing of multiple forms of data – including light detection and ranging (Lidar), GPS, inertial measurement units (IMU) and high-definition cameras – to locate and identify weeds amongst a crop while a combine harvester is in constant motion.
The 3D mapping device being developed by Stealth will fit onto a standard combine harvester and automatically capture and integrate data while a farmer carries out their existing crop harvesting activities.
Maps can be easily imported into existing GPS devices or agriculture management software, enabling the farmer to follow up using existing methods of treating weeds and combine this with any modern agronomic methods.
Stealth managing director Charles Murphy said the technology will help curb the need for excessive use of chemicals in weed control, which is a significant issue for the global agricultural industry.
“Our strategy from the start was to build a platform that had applications across multiple industry sectors [and] from an Australian domestic market context, sectors like agriculture, logistics and mining have immediate opportunities,” he said.
“We are following the same strategy of collaborating closely with end users to develop a solution which directly solves an existing problem with automation.”
Share purchase plan
In a separate announcement on Monday, Strategic Elements invited eligible shareholders to participate in a share purchase plan capped to a maximum total of $1 million at $0.06 per share.
The funds will assist expansion of Stealth’s AxV automated robotics software and hardware platform across multiple industry sectors including this latest development for automated weed detection and the collaboration with Honeywell for an autonomous security vehicle.
Funds will also be used to develop autonomous security vehicles outside of the correctional justice sector with Strategic Elements aiming to market to sectors including transport, energy, defence, government, and utilities providing critical services.
Additional funds may also be used in the development of the company’s Nanocube Memory technology.
Applications for the share purchase plan will be accepted on a first received basis with oversubscriptions accepted at the directors’ discretion.