An AI robot is spotting sick tulips to slow the spread of disease through Dutch bulb fields

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The Netherlands:

Theo works weekdays, weekends, and nights and never complains about a sore spine despite performing hour upon hour of what, for a regular farm hand, would be backbreaking labor checking Dutch tulip fields for sick flowers.

The boxy robot — named after a retired employee at the WAM Pennings farm near the Dutch North Sea coast — is a new high-tech weapon in the battle to root out disease from the bulb fields as they erupt into a riot of springtime color.

On a windy spring morning, the robot trundled Tuesday along rows of yellow and red “goudstuk” tulips, checking each plant and, when necessary, killing diseased bulbs to prevent the spread of the tulip-breaking virus. The dead bulbs are removed from healthy ones in a sorting warehouse after they have been harvested.

The virus stunts the growth and development of plants leading to smaller and weaker flowers. It also weakens the bulb itself, eventually leaving it unable to flower.


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