SOR has shown that its technology can provide the solution to a $US34.5bn agriculture problem in the US market.

Tech venture company Strategic Elements (ASX:SOR) has identified an exciting new market opportunity through its fully-owned subsidiary, Stealth Technologies.

The company flagged early test results this morning that showed Stealth’s market-leading automation and robotics platform (AxV) has the capability to deploy advanced weed detection technologies for use in the global agriculture sector.

The spread of weeds is still a significant issue for crop yields globally, where production losses are estimated at more than $3bn in Australia, while in the US the cost is estimated at more than $US30bn.

The use of expensive chemicals also remains prevalent, while existing weed detection technologies are limited in their capacity to distinguish weeds that are the same colour as crops.

That second point in particular is what makes the potential market opportunity for Stealth’s early-detection technology a lucrative one.


Market opportunity

Working together with researchers at the Australian Herbicide Resistance Initiative and the University of Western Australia School of Agriculture and Environment, the Stealth team has proved out early validation for the use of its technology in early weed detection.

The group began by installing Stealth’s advanced detection technology onto a combine harvester, as part of a barley harvest at a broadacre farm test-site in WA.

By compiling data and running algorithm analyses, the group then ran tests of the Stealth platform’s capacity for weed detection, referenced against the location of known weeds.

And early data showed the technology had a 100 per cent success rate for detecting weeds, with a height threshold of 20cm above the canopy.

“Significantly, the technology was able to detect weeds from the barley crop — notwithstanding the fact that both were brown in colour and barely distinguishable to the human eye,” SOR said.

“Currently available technologies using computer vision solutions would be unable to replicate these results.”

It adds up to an exciting market opportunity for SOR, given the ongoing use of pesticides in the global agriculture sector to control weeds.

But along with being high-cost, existing weed systems also develop a resistance to herbicides over time.

It means the industry is in a position to react quickly to new weed detection technologies that form that basis of alternative agronomic techniques such as targeted spot-fertilising or increasing seed levels during crop season.

“All these techniques require accurate knowledge of weed locations, that to date is lacking in farm management,” SOR noted.

“The technologies that Stealth and its collaboration partners are developing are designed to solve this problem in large-scale crop farming, whilst keeping the work-rate at the required levels.”

With a new market opportunity identified, Stealth has filed a patent for its weed detection technology that includes the arrangement of sensors on the platform, and software used to analyse the data.


Production timeline

Looking ahead, the company provided a 2021 timeline where it plans to scale up to commercial testing in the second half of this year.

The group plans to deploy its weed detection technology for “at least 10 potential end customer reference sites” by November, SOR said.

Commenting on the announcement, Strategic Elements’ CEO Charles Murphy said it reflected Stealth’s capacity to build out a platform with use-cases across a number of different market verticals.

“From an Australian domestic market context other sectors like logistics and mining also have attractive opportunities and we are very active in seeking the right partners with which to collaborate,” Murphy said.

This article was developed in collaboration with Strategic Elements, a Stockhead advertiser at the time of publishing.

This article does not constitute financial product advice. You should consider obtaining independent advice before making any financial decisions.