Broad-leaved dock (Rumex obtusifolius L.) is a common and troublesome weed with a wide geographic distribution. The weed is readily consumed by livestock but its nutritive value is less than that of grass. The high contents of oxalic acid and oxalates can affect animal health if consumed in larger doses. When left uncontrolled, the weed will reach a high density and reduce grass yield by 10 to 40%.
In conventional dairy farming, the weed is normally controlled by using herbicides. In organic farming no synthetic pesticides are used and there is a risk that broad-leaved dock will spread. The solution proposed here consists of creating a robot that is capable of exploring a pasture by relying on GPS, equipping it with an array of sensors to detect the weed, and also equipping it with a non-chemical method to eliminate detected weeds. We use an existing, robust autonomous platform, we advance the state of the art of weed detection by combining two-dimensional (2-D) and three-dimensional (3-D) imaging, and we adopt and optimize an innovative, environment-friendly hot-water treatment to eliminate weeds.