31 March 2024, by Emily Proctor

Special robots are helping Dutch farmers by using AI to spot diseased tulips in order to prevent the spread of illness to other healthy plants. The robot spots tulips infected with diseases that can stunt the growth of the plants and removes them – a job that was previously done by human “disease-spotters”.

Robot Theo named after retired farm employee

The robot, whose name is Theo, is named after a retired farm employee from the WAM Pennings farm near the Dutch coast. The robot is one of the lucrative Dutch farming industry’s newest tools in the arsenal against plant diseases. 

According to the AP, there are currently 45 robots patrolling the Netherlands’ tulip fields on the hunt for diseased plants to remove them and stop the spread of disease. This work was previously undertaken by human “disease-spotters” who would inspect the plants. 

Disease-spotting robots come with a hefty price tag

The robots, while clever and useful for farmers, come with a hefty price tag. “You could also buy a very nice sports car,” for the price of the robot, Visser told the AP – its makers say the robot costs 185.000 euros.

“But I prefer to have the robot because a sports car doesn’t take out the sick tulips from our field. Yeah, it is expensive, but there are less and less people who can really see the sick tulips,” he added.

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