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Greeneye spray booms are here, but hard to get

Chris Torres Greeneye retrofitted boom on a Hagie sprayer on display at the 2022 Farm Progress Show
BRAND AGNOSTIC: At this year’s Farm Progress Show, Greeneye had one of its retrofitted booms on a Hagie sprayer on display. The fact that Greeneye’s booms are brand agnostic is a selling point the company’s CEO says differentiates it from similar technology offered by John Deere.
The product completed its first year being used on Midwest farms.

Having a sprayer capable of “seeing” weeds and spraying only when necessary sounds enticing, especially in this year of high input prices.

But is it worth it yet for farmers to invest in the technology, and will it do the job that traditional sprayers already do well?

Nadav Bocher, co-founder and CEO of Israel-based Greeneye Technologies, says his company is poised to become the leader in the space, offering a product that he claims does the job of killing weeds while also reducing herbicide usage and giving producers the choice of being able to keep their current sprayer.

“Our approach, from day one, is after market, retrofitting existing machines,” Bocher said in front of a retrofitted Hagie sprayer at his company’s booth at this year’s Farm Progress Show in Boone, Iowa.

This summer was the first season the company’s custom-built precision spray booms were used on Midwest farms. He said the response has been so promising that spray boom orders for 2023 are already booked, although he declined to provide the exact number of booms the company will install.

The company makes 120-foot aluminum spray booms fitted with 24 cameras and numerous computer processors that enable precision herbicide spraying in fields. It’s very similar to the See and Spray technology John Deere is rolling out, but Greeneye is “brand agnostic,” meaning that if you have a Hagie, Case, New Holland or even a John Deere sprayer, you can get a Greeneye boom — so long as it is ISOBUS-ready.

“Basically, in real time, as the machine drives through the field, if this camera sees a weed, it will trigger the relevant nozzle to spray precisely,” he said, adding that each boom also comes with LED lights to enable nighttime operation and can also spray at speeds up to 15 mph in a field.

There are 144 nozzles across each boom, each nozzle spaced 10 inches apart. Two lines are connected to each nozzle — one a broadcast line where a residual herbicide can be sprayed, the other a Greeneye line that can spray nonresidual herbicides.

Each nozzle has a spray resolution of 10 inches by 10 inches, and they are all connected to the Greeneye system, which uses the cameras and machine learning to recognize weeds in a field and then spray it when needed.

Retrofitted machines come with the Greeneye boom, and a dual-tank system on the sprayer itself.

The boom can be used in both corn and soybeans, and according to a company representative, cotton will be next.

Promising results

The technology is a feat onto itself, but the long-term success of these spray booms will be its effectiveness on farms. To that end, first-year data from a University of Nebraska-Lincoln study shows promise.

Over three replicated sites, the Greeneye booms reduced nonresidual herbicide use by 94% in preemergence plots and by 87% in postemergence plots, compared to traditional broadcast plots.

Broadleaf weed control — including marestail, Palmer amaranth, waterhemp and henbil — averaged 96.3% in the Greeneye plots, the same as in the traditional plots after 21 days.

Grass weed control wasn’t as strong. The Greeneye plots averaged 89.6% control compared to 93% control in the broadcast plots.

Courtesy of Greeneye TechnologiesGreeneye Technologies 120-foot aluminum spray booms

DRIVEN BY CAMERAS: The company makes 120-foot aluminum spray booms fitted with 24 cameras and numerous computer processors that enable precision herbicide spraying in fields.

Based on the reduced amount of herbicide and comparable weed control, the study estimates savings of $24.70 per acre using Greeneye preemergence, and $40.50 per acre using Greeneye postemergence.

"And I think that is the intersection that Greeneye wants to be at,” Bocher said. “It's the combination between massive savings, but at the same time offering the best possible efficacy to our customers, offering access to the best product, to the best treatment, and to be able to manage herbicide resistance in a much more effective way.”

Hard to get

Still, don’t count on getting a boom retrofitted for your sprayer anytime soon. Bocher said that 2023 is booked for orders and only a few spots remain for 2024, adding that there is already a long waiting list to get them.

How much does a boom cost? Although the company hasn’t publicly revealed pricing, Bocher said it will do so sometime this fall. He did say that for a producer managing between 2,500 and 3,500 acres, the return on investment will be 12 to 18 months, indicating that the cost of a retrofitted boom will likely be high.

“That’s only the savings piece. That’s not even considering improvement of efficacy, reduction of drift, other factors,” he said.

The concept of precision weed spraying has been thought of for decades, Bocher said, but it was only until the technology recently matured that the concept became reality. He said the company focused on field and lab testing the first few years before coming to market. It has been backed by several venture capitalist firms, including Syngenta Group Ventures and a 2.9% equity investment by Agco.

The next steps, Bocher said, are field-testing of precision fungicide spraying and micronutrients using the same system.

"I think there is a lot more value that we can gain with this technology and reducing other crop inputs, not just herbicides,” he said. “The other thing we are working on is value from the cameras themselves. Right now, the immediate value is the see-and-spray approach, but we can also collect a lot of data from the field, so improving the capability of the cameras to map weeds, do crop stand counts and other things, see field stress. There is so much information you can get and that can be valuable.”

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