What are some interesting agricultural robots

Start-up robots are doing the field work this summer

"As a result of the increasingly harsh conditions for agriculture - not least as a result of climate change - we see it as an important service of the warehouse association to look for ever more innovative agricultural solutions," says Christoph Metzker, RWA division manager and advisory board chairman of the Agro Innovation Lab : “It's about making farm work more modern, more efficient and more attractive. Robotics in particular offers very interesting areas of application, especially for domestic agriculture, and has the potential to revolutionize this in the future. "

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RWA Raiffeisen Ware Austria AG is the wholesale and service company of the warehouse cooperatives in Austria, which in turn includes 90 independent and regional cooperatives owned by farmers with more than 1,000 locations and around 12,000 employees. Together with BayWa AG, RWA has launched an innovation platform called Agro Innovation Lab GmbH (AIL), with which innovations are made accessible to agriculture.

In the past three years, 650 startups from 60 countries have already been supported in entering the market. This year the focus is on another promising technology: robotics.

Robotics Challenge 2019 for robots in agriculture

In the course of this approach, the “Robotics Challenge 2019” was launched, in which the AIL is looking for the best agricultural robots. In a first kick-off at the end of June, six robots were identified that were developed by startups, have already developed functional prototypes and have the potential to change agriculture in the long term.

The AIL has particular potential for autonomous weed control and for the fruit and vegetable harvest. The six selected finalists from a total of 34 submissions are specifically:

  • Agrointelli, Denmark / “Robotti”: Development of an autonomous and versatile implement carrier on which machines for sowing, fertilizing, weed control and harvesting can be attached. This robot can therefore be used in both arable and vegetable growing.
  • Cerescon, Netherlands / “Sparter”: Development of a robot for harvesting white asparagus. The robot attached to a tractor uses sensors to detect the ripe asparagus on the surface. After reaching a minimum size, the asparagus is harvested independently by the robot, whereby two to three rows can be processed in parallel.
  • Deepfield Robotics, Germany: Development of robots that autonomously regulate weeds in row crops. With access to 4.3 million recorded images, the robots can differentiate between 35 different plant species.
  • Mascor / FH Aachen, Germany / "Etarob": Development of a robot for selective weed control based on electro-physical principles, which can be used in all weather conditions and at night. This can be used for row crops or for growing vegetables between the rows. Further developments focus on selective fertilization and especially the harvest of iceberg lettuce and potatoes.
  • Saga Robotics, Norway: Development of modular robots for UV treatment against powdery mildew and for the autonomous harvest of strawberries. These are suitable for use in glass and foil houses as well as in orchards and arable land.
  • Tensorfield, USA / Hong Kong: Development of autonomous robots for thermal weed control in row crops using heated food-grade rapeseed oil. Development of visual recognition on vegetables and specialization in spinach and romaine lettuce.

Field work in summer, finals in September

During the summer, the companies take part in so-called Challenge Weeks and field tests, which take place in Austria, Germany and, in some cases, at the participants' locations. As part of the cooperation with the AIL, the robots are intensively tested, technically adapted and their market presence supported, or their market launch prepared in a next step.

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In mid-September, the winners of the competition will be announced as part of the Robotics Challenge Finals. AIL managing director David Saad already sees a lot of potential in robotics. "The participants in the AIL Robotics Challenge clearly show that robotics is already very advanced in certain areas of agriculture," he says: "It is time to deal with this development and its areas of application in this country too, so that we can participate at an early stage." For this reason, they made a conscious decision to promote this field of innovation and are already looking forward to the results of the challenge. "