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AI-Powered Guardians Shield Dutch Tulips from Disease

In the Netherlands, tulip farmers are employing an innovative AI-powered robot to combat diseases in their bulb fields, which burst into vibrant colours each spring.

Named Theo, after a retired employee of the WAM Pennings farm near the North Sea coast, the robot meticulously inspects each tulip plant.

When it identifies a diseased bulb, it ensures the bulb is removed after harvest to prevent the spread of the tulip-breaking virus, which can stunt growth and weaken the flowers.

Theo is part of a fleet of 45 robots patrolling tulip fields across the country, marking a shift from traditional human "sickness spotters" to more technologically advanced methods.

Allan Visser, a third-generation tulip farmer, has welcomed Theo for a second growing season, highlighting the robot's efficiency despite its high cost of 185,000 euros (£157,000).

Theo's precision in identifying sick tulips through its cameras and AI model represents a significant advancement in agricultural technology.

Erik de Jong, from H2L Robotics, the company behind these robots, explains that the combination of AI and precise GPS coordinates allows for the accurate identification and removal of infected flowers.

This innovation is a testament to the collaboration between technology and traditional farming knowledge, offering a promising solution to maintaining the health and beauty of tulip fields.

Theo van der Voort, the robot's namesake and a veteran in spotting diseased tulips, expressed his admiration for the robot's capabilities, noting its ability to detect as much as he could.

This technological advancement not only signifies a leap forward in agricultural practices but also ensures the preservation of one of the Netherlands' most iconic symbols of spring.


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