End of Herbicides
My name is Dean Cook. I am a chemist, programmer, engineer and inventor.
Robots are important to our future. I constantly look for new uses for robots to have in enhancing our everyday life. One day, I was stuck in traffic on the way to work and I was listening to NPR. The hosts were talking about the problem of Super-weeds. Super-weeds have become resistant to herbicides at an unbelievable fast pace. The companies talked about using new herbicides and new genetically modified crops to solve the problem. I knew it would not work. It only took five years for herbicide resistant weeds to appear, instead of the previous estimate of 75 years.
Link to NPR podcast
For better or worse, the world has become very dependent on large scale agriculture. If we lose the use of herbicides and pesticides, without a cost-effective replacement, people will starve. I plan to prevent that; putting agriculture on a more sustainable and environmentally friendly path.
Over the last five years, I have brought this idea to a number of investors who all thought it was a great idea. But no one has ever moved forward do to the amount of work and cost involved to make it a reality. I decided on a different path. I have been associated with WPI through the First Robotics Program for a number of years. In that time, I have met most of the professors teaching robotics as well as undergraduate students, master's students, and Phd candidates. Through First Robotics, I have to gotten to know a number of engineers and the Vice presidents of several robotics companies in the area. I realized that WPI would be the best resource to accomplish my goal.
Using WPI, I can fund a number of projects across many interrelated disciplines. Robotics, Machine Learning, Chemistry, and Computer Science are just a few of the areas of research needed to make this vision become a reality. I have created business plans. It would take tens of millions of dollars to build this system the conventional way, so I chose a different path. Using WPI, the project will cost a fraction of the conventional method. I will be able run in parallel, many pieces of the project across multiple department and teams.
Just this May, the patent office of the US, went from a first to invent to a first to file patent system. This presented a big problem. If this project removes the need to use herbicides and pesticides, it will create a large threat to some companies' business models. With the first to file in place, these large corporations could file patents that they never intend to pursue in order to prevent the competition that would adversely affect them. To prevent this from happening, I have started the patent process to insure these ideas come to the market.
Over the last 35 years, I have worked with diverse technologies and sciences. In the 80's, I repaired computers and built electronics. In the 90's, with my BS in Chemistry, I worked as an environmental chemist for Clean Harbors. For the last 14 years, I have been working as a programmer. In all these past work experiences, my knowledge was used to solve problems, in one way or another. With this project, I plan to solve a global problem facing all of us.
I have started by asking for $40,000. This is just to start. The more money, I get the faster then the more research projects I can start. $40,000 is the realistic minimal amount to get the process moving. More campaigns will be needed over the years to continue funding these subprojects.
"You never change things by fighting the existing reality.
To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete."
Richard Buckminster Fuller
This project in total will take 3 to 5 years to complete.
The project will be broken into sub-projects of about 1000 man-hours then divided among undergraduates and master's students. There is a minimum fee of $15,000 per sub-project plus any additional costs for hardware or software needed for the work. The more funds we get, the faster work can be done. Any money not spent by the end of that tax year will be charged at corporate income tax rate. Any more funding left over will be used to prepay the project for the coming year. We are consulting a tax lawyer for the best way to shelter the money in a manner most financially beneficial to the project.
$20,000 to $30,000 will be needed finish the US and international patent process.
The impact of this work will go far beyond the farming community. The field of Artificial Predators can be used to solve the problems of invasive species in many different ecosystems. Versions of this system can be adapted to harvest solar energy stored in plants while improving the health of the ecosystems.
The resulting material after the robots are done digesting the weed is Biochar. The material being returned to the field will reduce fertilizer requirements and improve the soil.
The Future that I Want To See
Within the next 20 years, I would like to walk into a Home Depot or Lowes and walk down a robot aisle. Lined up will be little packages, labeled, gypsy moths or aphids, filled with tiny ant like robots. I would take a package, bring it home. I would put it next to the plant I want to protect and push the start button. The little robots would come to life, scurry up the tree or bush, biting the heads off of what ever they are programmed to attack and leave all other insects alone. They would not go anywhere else or attack anything else. They would just wait for more insects to show up.
Other Ways You Can Help
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What Are SuperWeeds? Super-Weeds in the news.
The once controllable pig weed is destroying many cotton and soy harvests.
Herbicide Resistant Weeds - University of Missouri
Herbicide-resistant weeds are becoming a major concern for weed scientists and farmers across Louisiana.
Herbicide-resistant weeds in Georgia