Presentation of the BlueBob in France

23 September was a day marked in France not only by a change in the weather, but above all by innovations in sustainable beet cultivation. The demonstration of the BlueBob robot took place under changing weather conditions.

The guests were received in the Paris region at the Golf d'Ableiges hotel, with the utmost attention to hygiene measures. Representatives of the entire sugar beet industry from France and Belgium were present, as well as a number of political personalities, including Alexandra Dublanche, Vice-President of the Île-de-France Region with responsibility for economic development, agriculture and rural affairs. Eric Vejux, Managing Director of the Deleplanque Group, welcomed the guests and presented the VisionBlue business strategy in his speech. Dr. Antje Wolff, Senior Scientist in the field of seed quality research at Strube, traced the history of new technologies at Strube in her presentation. She stressed that the BlueBob robot is the logical development of the PhenoFieldBot, which is already being used at Strube for phenotyping in experimental plots.

Alexandra Dublanche then took the floor to announce the Ile-de-France Region's financial contribution of 1.3 million euros to the Modefy project.

After a short lunch break, boots and umbrellas were needed on the experimental field in Puiseux-Pontoise, which was specially prepared this summer with late sowing. Three workshops on BlueBob, Project Modefy and UAV awaited the guests.

After a presentation by Christian Hügel, head of seed research and development at Strube, and Bruno De Wulf, BlueBob project manager, the demonstration of the BlueBob was the highlight of the event. The BlueBob is the prototype of a weed robot for sugar beet cultivation, developed by Strube in cooperation with the French start-up company Naïo-Technologies and the German research institute Fraunhofer. The BlueBob weeds mechanically over the entire area, from the first true leaves to the canopy closure. It chops weeds both between and within rows at a speed of 0.5 ha/hour. 

The Modefy project was presented by Laurent Boisroux, manager of the sugar beet business unit at Strube. The aim of this five-year project is to find technical solutions to combat the beet yellows virus in sugar beet, which can lead to a loss of up to 50% of yield. The project, which will start in October 2020, is the result of a collaboration between Deleplanque, ITB and INRAe and will focus on different issues: surveillance, phenotyping, vaccination/defence, genetic resources/selection, biological control and electropenetrography.

Julien Molvaux, head of experiments of the Deleplanque group, then presented drones and its applications. He explained the technical advances that the use of them in the monitoring of trial plots entails. The counting of field emergencies can now be carried out faster, more objectively and with much simpler organisation and logistics. Once the photos have been taken with a drone, we obtain a synthetic image that identifies each micro parcel in the image. Thanks to image processing software, the beets can be highlighted in relation to the ground, making it possible to count the beets. 
Through drones it is also possible to measure leaf diseases objectively with a multispectral sensor that can highlight the different spots on the leaves. This is possible with powdery mildew and cercospora, among others.