The European Commission has confirmed it is funding projects researching how farmers could kill weeds using laser beams. (Photo by Sjoerd van der Wal/Getty Images)


EC funding research on killing weeds with lasers


The European Commission has confirmed it is funding projects researching how farmers could kill weeds using laser beams.

Two projects, WeLASER and GALIRUMI, are said to be collectively receiving more than €6 million to research such a method of vegetation-pest control via Horizon Europe grants.

The lion’s share of this grant has been handed to WeLASER, which is researching the use of an AI-guided robot to deliver “lethal doses of energy” to unwanted plants in the hope of killing them.

“There are numerous European Union firms working with robotics for agricultural applications, including laser weeding,” EU agriculture commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski said.

“Funding opportunities on these technologies, including robotics, remotely-piloted aerial systems, and sensors, continue under Horizon Europe,” he added.

Wojciechowski’s statement was in response to a query by two French MEPs about the technology, with the pair expressing hope that it “could considerably reduce our need for and use of herbicides”.

This appears to be the aim of the two Horizon Europe projects funded by the EC, with the technology also said to have further possible benefits even when compared to other non-pesticide interventions.

“Mechanical automatic systems that are studied as alternatives to pesticides deteriorate soil features, damage beneficial soil organisms and offer limited results for in-row weeding,” the description page for WeLASER reads.

“The EU-funded WeLASER project will develop a non-chemical solution for weed management based on pioneering technology consisting of the application of lethal doses of energy on the weed meristems through a high-power laser source.”

If successful, the two projects would provide the Horizon Europe project with an injection of good PR, something many Eurocrats may feel is needed considering other news surrounding the funding platform.

Just recently, the EC confirmed that Horizon Europe was used to fund various projects operated by Chinese tech giant Huawei, despite numerous warnings that such relations could be detrimental to the bloc’s security situation.

Commissioners were keen to emphasise that the funding was handed over to the Chinese Communist Party-linked enterprise before it was officially listed as being a risk to EU security.

This is likely of little consolation to many China hawks in the union, who have long been warning about the growing influence of the technology manufacturer.