Jon Foley Envisions a "Third Way" for Agriculture

Monday, February 21, 2011

Micothon Developes New Pesticide Spraying Robots for Greenhouse Growers

One of the cold, hard realities of growing and producing crops as a primary source of  income is the challenge of producing the highest quality product possible at the lowest cost.  Perhaps the most difficult problem you will face is pest management.  Even if you are raising crops organically, you still will be faced with the prospect of spraying crop protection materials i.e.; pesticides, to keep very real threats to your bottom line at bay.  Efficient, safe, and effective spray application for pest management is a crucial aspect of producing crops in a sustainable and profitable manner.

That's right, organic growers spray pesticides also.  The materials they use may be classified as less harmful to non-target organisms and the environment but there is an arsenal of these materials that are used by certified organic growers to control pests.  See the OMRI list of pesticides that are accepted for organic use. By the way certified organic pesticides are still subject to Paracelsus' Law of Dosage i.e.; the dose makes the poison. To be fair, check out CropLife International also, the global trade association for conventional pest control products.

Contrary to some of the propaganda circulating around talk show studios and kitchen table discussions these days, growers don't sit around thinking up ways to contaminate your food.  The decision to make a spray application of a pesticide to a crop, organic or conventional, is preceded by careful thought about all the alternatives at hand before investing considerable time and money to solve the problem with pesticides.  If a grower doesn't go through this decision making process then they are foolishly wasting resources and frittering away profits.

When you are running an operation with small margins to begin with, which pretty much defines the average horticultural production farm, there is a lot of risk to manage.  Judicious and safe application of pesticides is part of any good risk management plan designed to protect the already considerable investment that is in the crop and production system. 

There is a Dutch company, called Micothon that can help with minimizing the impact of pesticide applications both to the environment, the crop and your pocketbook.  Micothon manufactures highly efficient air-assisted spray application equipment for greenhouse use in spraying vegetable and ornamental crops.  They claim that their equipment will give you 79% better sprayer coverage than other standard spray equipment.  Better spray coverage will result in optimal control of pests, dramatic reduction in amount of pesticides used, reduction in labor costs, and increased crop quality .

Micothon sprayers are actually robots that minimize human contact during application in greenhouses.  They move back and forth between rows in the greenhouse pulled by a cable on tube rails.  The tube/rail machine and the wheeled machine are for use in glass greenhouses apparently because they are, by design, more suited to automation.

The company has a new machine under development that is more suited to plastic covered greenhouses called the Micothon EX.  This machine is not on rails it is a freestanding, self-propelled unit on wheels that is guided by a person.  Looks like they are still working on physical stability issues that would make it more user friendly.  Stay tuned for further developments.

Micothon spray application robots are another example of how advancements in technology have made crop production more efficient by facilitating the application of crop protection materials that is a safer, more effective and more profitable enterprise.

How have you made improvements in your spray application technology?


  1. Many thanks for this informative post!

  2. Thanks Theo! Glad it was of some value to you. Are you a greenhouse grower?