Sponsored By

In Their Words: Carbon Robotics' Paul Mikesell

Paul Mikesell is founder and CEO of Carbon Robotics, a Seattle-based ag tech company that manufactures a robotic weeding implement called the LaserWeeder.

December 23, 2022

2 Min Read
In Their Words: Carbon Robotics’ Paul Mikesell

OPN caught up with Paul for a conversation about why he started Carbon Robotics, how the LaserWeeder works, the benefits of using lasers versus blades, his company’s plans for the future, and more.

What is your background, and what led you to found Carbon Robotics? 

My background is primarily in engineering. In 2001, I co-founded Isilon Systems, a distributed large-scale storage company. After that company went public in 2006, I co-founded Clustrix, a transaction database startup that was eventually acquired by MariaDB in 2018.

Paul Mikesell, Founder and CEO, Carbon Robotics

Prior to founding Carbon Robotics, I served as the director of infrastructure engineering at Uber. In that role, I focused on deep learning and computer vision, which led me to think about how I could apply this technology to other real-world issues. I have a few friends who are farmers, so I deeply appreciate their hard work and the dedication they have for their profession. I also recognize the importance of their job and how farmers provide food security for the world. After speaking with these friends and other farmers, it became clear that weed control is a major—and accelerating—challenge in agriculture. All of this led me to found Carbon Robotics in 2018, so I could create a weed control solution that helps farmers grow quality food efficiently and sustainably.

carbon robotics logo

Can you describe the Carbon Robotics LaserWeeder and how it works?

The LaserWeeder is a pull-behind implement that seamlessly attaches to the back of tractors, enabling it to integrate effortlessly into existing farm infrastructure. At approximately 20 feet wide, it reaches across three crop rows and features 30 high-power CO2 lasers.

The LaserWeeder leverages our sophisticated laserweeding technology, driven by AI deep learning models and computer vision software, to efficiently identify, target, and eliminate weeds by zapping them at the meristem. The implement can cover up to 2 acres per hour and shoot up to 200,000 weeds in that time (depending on weed density, weed size, soil conditions, and other factors specific to each farm). The LaserWeeder also features a patented lighting system that allows it to be operable at whatever hour of the day the farmer needs.

Weed shot by LaserWeeder with millimeter accuracy

Why did you decide to create a robotic weeder that uses lasers rather than blades?  

Unlike blades, our CO2 thermal-powered lasers destroy the stem cells of the weed (not just the top) without disturbing the soil or damaging the weed barrier (in some instances, just small punctures to the weed barrier provide weeds with an opportunity to grow).

Subscribe to our eNewsletter!
Receive the latest organic produce industry news directly in your inbox.