Facing the necessary need to increase the sustainability of agriculture, several programs were implemented to encourage an environmental transition while taking into account the needs and constraints of farmers and the different agricultural industries. As part of this, the ROSE Challenge, a large call for projects, was launched in 2017. The goal: Mobilize researchers and private actors to identify innovative solutions in controlling weeds and thus reduce the use of herbicides.
Issued in 2015, the Agriculture-Innovation 2025 Plan already underlined the importance of putting technologies and innovative tools at the service of agriculture to rise to the environmental challenge. Following the same logic, the Ecophyto II plan committed to reduce the use of phytosanitary products by 50% by 2025.
In this context, the French Ministry of Agriculture opened a call for projects titled the ROSE Challenge. Promoted in partnership with the Ministry of Research and the National Research Agency, this call for projects concerns a specific problem: weeding the space between plants of the same row.
As herbicides represent 40% of the phytopharmaceutical products used and are the primary pesticides responsible for water contamination, the ROSE Challenge thus encourages the use of scientific advances such as captors, modelling, robotics, and their combination to advance the entirety of the weeding chain, from observation and detection of weeds to the weeding itself. In the long term, it’s the reduction in herbicide use that is being sought.
To meet this challenge, the ROSE Challenge hoped to encourage the emergence of interdisciplinary teams and to encourage the teams to compare their ideas, approaches and work. These teams came up with various different potential solutions to this problem. For example, the WeedElec project proposed an alternative to widespread herbicide use through a combination of a drone to detect weeds coupled with a robotic solution on the ground that carried out the weeding process.