As weed density on the bed became high, the time savings using the prone workstation became low as the benefit of simpler mobility on the prone workstation was lost because the number of weeds necessitated a speed similar to that of crawling on hands and knees.We saw the largest time savings when weed density was moderate to low, which capitalized on added mobility of the work station. We attributed the remainder of the difference to the use of both hands for weeding. Weeding was consistently described in anecdotal accounts for “far more comfortable” on the prone work platform than on hands and knees.
We consider this an effective vehicle for augmenting hand weeding efficiency on beds with moderate to low weed pressure. The main limitation with day to day use of the prone weeder has to do with the number of people available to weed a certain number of beds. If you only have one prone weeder (with two riders) everyone else on the crew that is also weeding does not see any ergonomic or efficiency benefit. Therefore the most benefit is to small scale farmers with a very small or no hand weeding crew (they do it themselves), or those farms that equip all of their farm workers with a seat on one of multiple workstations, such that everyone is riding one. While the vehicle can be ridden by one rider, long arms are needed to cover all the rows of the bed. An alternative design might be to use one rider centered over the bed and a rear differential transmission from a go kart. In this situation, the combination of simultaneous steering and weeding three rows might counteract some of the efficiency gains realized in the two person model.