Navigating Complexity: Carbon Robotics’ Engineers Strive to Revolutionize Farming Practices

In the Pacific Northwest, a team of engineers has embraced rapid, precise iteration to bring the agricultural industry into the future.
Written by Lucas Dean
January 12, 2024Updated: January 12, 2024

At the core of every groundbreaking technological advancement lies an engineering ethos, the guiding principles that drive innovation and shape the future. At Carbon Robotics, trailblazing engineers vividly embody this concept. 

In modern agriculture, the Seattle-based company’s LaserWeeder, a cutting-edge invention fusing AI and robotics, is transforming how farmers operate. This 20-foot-wide behemoth is not just a machine; it’s a source of sustainable innovation.

The technology can accurately target and eliminate weeds with millimeter precision, firing every 50 milliseconds, offering a faster, more efficient and highly effective way to manage a costly problem.

Uncontrolled, these unwelcome plants can cause 100 percent yield loss. In the United States alone, weeds result in $33 billion in lost crop production annually, according to ecological economics research. 

Behind the LaserWeeder is a dedicated team of skilled engineers committed to the principle of ‘Iterating with Precision.’ This philosophy is not just a guiding principle but a belief that permeates every aspect of their work, shaping each design decision and every product iteration.

Finding the right balance between efficiency and sustainability in the agriculture industry can be challenging. The company’s engineers have achieved this through solutions guided by a unifying mission and practiced ethos. 

VP of Engineering Nick Kirsch provided insights into the underlying vision and shared goals that propel his team forward as they unearth new possibilities in agricultural technology. 

 

Nick Kirsch
Vice President, Engineering • Carbon Robotics

Carbon Robotics is transforming agriculture with its innovative LaserWeeder, a laser and AI-based solution aimed at enhancing crop yield, reducing farming costs and promoting sustainable practices by efficiently tackling weed control.

 

Does your team or engineering org have a central ethos or mantra that drives how you develop and collaborate? 

Carbon Robotics doesn’t have a catchy slogan adorning our walls, but if you asked any of our engineers, you’d hear a variant of the following: we iterate quickly, working closely with our customers to deliver high-quality products that can be manufactured at scale. 

If I had to be pithy, I’d say “iterating with precision.”

This is no small feat for an engineering organization that must combine a multitude of hardware, software and computer vision capabilities to produce five-ton machines reliably, and it’s important to realize that technical precision changes as the product matures. If you’re not embarrassed by your first version, you’ve waited too long to ship.

 

How do you put that ethos into practice? 

The development of the LaserWeeder, affectionately dubbed the Slayer, culminated in a four-year race to bring laser-weeding to commercial farms. We built several generations of our Autonomous Robot, forging deep relationships with farmers, who ultimately guided us towards the three-row implement now running nearly continuously on their farms.

The innovative and dependable software, hardware and computer vision techniques were earned through many hours of man and machine in harsh environments.

 

The software, hardware and computer vision techniques were earned through many hours of man and machine in harsh environments.”

 

As engineering teams imagine possibilities for their culture, how can they ensure the shared vision is inclusive, inventive and future-proof?

Inclusive, inventive and future-proof — to achieve anywhere near these goals, the guiding principles of an organization must be aligned with the core mission and attributes of the company. 

Such that regardless of which stage of the project, the product or the company, the team can leverage those principles to make a wide variety of decisions across the organization, whether tactical or strategic.

 

 

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