Two JKUAT Mechatronic Engineering finalist students emerged winners of the 2020 Imagine Cup European, Middle Eastern, and African (EMEA) regional.
Their weeding bot innovation bagged the cash prize of Sh828,000.
Michael Mwaisakenyi and Ken Gicira, dubbed the Knights, beat nine other students’ teams from across nine European, Middle Eastern and African countries.
They will be joined by RedWalls from Tunisia at the Imagine World Championship at Microsoft Build, Seattle, Washington, in May.
The Imagine Cup aims to inspire students to use technology to create innovative projects that tackle social, environmental, and health challenges.
The Knights, using Microsoft Azure, created an automated weeding bot to help farmers eliminate the need for herbicide.
Mwaisakenyi said they are passionate about using technology to solve problems and equally fascinated with technology that evolves each day.
“There is an opportunity to eradicate weeds mechanically without the use of herbicide while still increasing crop yield and reducing pollution," he said.
“The competition gave us an opportunity to use our creativity, passion and knowledge of technology to create an innovation that is beneficial to the local farmer.”
Mwaisakenyi added that the award money will further development of their innovation to improve the efficiency of weed eradication and boost food security.
“We are passionate about solving the issues of food production through technology because food is essential to life."
The autonomous weeding bot was exhibited during the JKUAT Tech Expo 10.0.
It uses artificial intelligence to discriminate between weeds and crops through a camera.
The vehicle uses the cameras to navigate through the farm, in-between rows of crops, together with a rotary encoder.
Mwaisakenyi added, “It has employed a four-wheel drive and four-wheel steering giving it the flexibility to employ different and suitable steering strategies with much ease."
The innovation has a robotic arm for weeding in-between the crop row and a plough-like weeding tool that is dragged by the robot to remove inter-row weeds.
According to the Knights, such competitions and challenges are vital in supporting young innovators to commercialise their work.
Mwaisakenyi said the Imagine Cup competition was an eye opener. He praised their mentors and the pitching training accorded to them by Microsoft.