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OPN Connect Newsletter 345 · November 9, 2023

Carbon Robotics Offers Innovative AI-Powered LaserWeeder Solution for Growers


In 2018, Paul Mikesell founded Carbon Robotics in order to bring the revolution in artificial intelligence (AI), computer vision, and robotic autonomy to agriculture. 

“In starting to understand what are the things most important to farmers and the intersection of that with the things we could build, weed control kept showing up as a top priority,” Mikesell said. “When we realized lasers would be effective as a weed adaptation strategy, plugging that into our AI systems, we knew we would be able to target and kill weeds.”

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Paul Mikesell, Founder, Carbon Robotics

The company’s high-precision, AI-tech-based Autonomous LaserWeeder debuted in April 2021 and was followed by the LaserWeeder implement which began shipping in May 2022. The LaserWeeder is designed to reduce costs associated with weed control, improve crop quality, provide safer working conditions for ag workers, and accelerate organic farming, as well as sustainable, regenerative farming. 

"Farmers have been pretty excited about what we’ve been doing,” Mikesell said. 

Recently, Carbon Robotics launched software—a customer portal where farmers can log in and see the types of weeds the LaserWeeder discovered, their geolocation, how many were found and killed, and more.

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“Over time, we’ll be able to show what’s happened and what’s changed, and hopefully, after using LaserWeeder for multiple years, [farmers] will see the background weed population go down because we’re able to kill the weeds before they go to seed,” Mikesell said. “This is our farming data analytics program that we’re providing to growers. We call them heat maps, which is a map where you can click and show layers in an overlay.” 

Since its founding—when only a handful of people were doing everything—Carbon Robotics has added a sales team, marketing team and field-support team and dramatically grown its engineering team, ensuring all customers get excellent support both remotely and in the field. 

“Over time, we’ll be able to show what’s happened and what’s changed, and hopefully, after using LaserWeeder for multiple years, [the farmers] will see the background weed population go down because we’re able to kill the weeds before they go to seed.” - Paul Mikesell

“We are understanding every day what’s good and bad happening on farms and how we can help farmers with our dedication to be in the field,” Mikesell said. “We have a nice mix of people with a farming background and people with a tech background, and I think you have to blend those two groups together or you’re going to get lost.” 

Carbon Robotics is at the point now where the company can grow and sustain itself on its own merits and continue to expand geographically, with the first LaserWeeders arriving in Europe and Australia this fall.

“We traditionally started on the West Coast of the United States, but we are now doing things across the country and in Canada as well,” Mikesell said.

Homegrown Organic Farms April 2024

The company’s LaserWeeder kills weeds without any chemical sprays or mechanical cultivation so the topsoil isn’t disturbed, minimizing the potential for runoff and damage to the crop.

“We can get millimeter-level accuracy, so we annihilate just the weeds even if they are very close to the crop plants,” Mikesell said. “And there are no long-term health effects or environmental damage or herbicides, which can set the crops back.”

In fact, a majority of farmers are seeing an increase in yields because the lasers remove weeds at a very early stage and don’t damage the crops at all—something that often happens with sprays or hand crews in the field.

“For organic growers, our machines basically pay for themselves between 1–3 years based on how much money we save them on annual weed-control costs,” Mikesell said. “This is important for organic growers because finding labor is really tricky and difficult. We allow farmers to go out and do organic weed control without having hand crews out there. Even when they have good people, the last thing they want them to do is pull weeds as their valuable workers are needed in other capacities on the farm.” 

“We can get millimeter-level accuracy, so we annihilate just the weeds even if they are very close to the crop plants.” - Paul Mikesell

The biggest challenge Carbon Robotics faces is in manufacturing capacity due to supply chain issues, import/export requirements, and rising working capital costs associated with higher interest rates.

“We do build them entirely in the US, but we are dependent on a lot of parts from around the world,” Mikesell said.

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The LaserWeeder platform has advanced significantly with new software capabilities and features. Software updates are delivered over the air via LTE or Starlink to all customer machines in the field, so the equipment gets better and better over time. Machine speed is one example of improvement, with some customers reporting almost a doubling in the performance and acres covered per hour.

“[Our company's current growth] comes from two areas: some of our growers are continuing to purchase more machines as they grow their operations, and the second area is geographically, as we expand into new regions,” Mikesell said. 

In the future, Carbon Robotics hints that it will come out with some other innovative products for farmers that are not directly associated with the LaserWeeder but will be related to a critical part of the farming operation.

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