A Smart Sprayer for Greenhouses Will Soon Become a Reality
Commercialization of a smart sprayer technology for greenhouse horticulture is moving forward, thanks to USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Smart Guided Systems, Inc. finalizing a licensing agreement in late August.
Dr. Heping Zhu of the USDA-ARS facility in Wooster, OH, designed the Intelligent Spray Control System to help bring precision agriculture to environmental horticulture. A laser on the sprayer detects the plant canopy; that information triggers spray nozzles to activate only where plant material is present. The result is that much less spray is required.
Dr. Zhu and his cohorts estimate anywhere from 47% to 70% reduction in pesticide needs (while still maintaining efficacy), which translates to $140 to $280 in annual cost savings per acre in nursery production. Beneficial insects also benefit through the significant reduction in pesticide drift — up to 87% reduction in general airborne drift and up to 93% reduction in drift on the ground. Dr. Zhu is currently working to adapt this technology to greenhouse operations.
“Concerns about application efficiency motivated our research,” Zhu says. “Our studies have shown that only 30% of spray volume in conventional nursery applications is deposited on target trees, and 34% of total spray volume is lost on the ground. The Intelligent Sprayer gives growers a targeted application with improved spray coverage.”
It has been a long journey to this point. The Horticultural Research Institute (HRI) provided some of the initial funding to get the project started, which was then used to garner additional funds through the USDA-ARS Floriculture and Nursery Research Initiative and USDA’s Specialty Crop Research Initiative programs, both supported by HRI.
“We are honored and excited to commercialize this remarkable technology,” says Steve Booher CEO and founder of Smart Guided Systems. “The USDA and a team of researchers have focused on optimizing application efficiency for sprayers. We want to bring to growers a system that can be added to their existing sprayer.”
Smart Guided Systems, Inc., is now accepting pre-orders, with expected delivery in spring 2019. An add-on kit option that enables growers to retrofit existing spray equipment is available.