Cultivation/Production, Equipment/Technology, Europe, UK, Ireland, Events, Smart Farming, Trends

Agricultural robotics and AI: A glimpse into tomorrow at Agritechnica 2023

Autonomous fieldwork is no longer a futuristic concept. Robots are now making their mark in practical applications. However, there’s still a long road ahead, especially in addressing safety concerns. This will be the central theme at Agritechnica 2023, to take place from 12-18 November, 2023.

Transition to Driverless Machines

Recent advancements in mobile machinery have paved the way for autonomous machines to cultivate vast tracts of land. The shift towards driverless field robots is already underway, promising immense potential for the agricultural sector. These robots can assist in various farm tasks, from sowing to harvesting, and play a pivotal role in conserving natural resources and soil. They also address labor shortages and are scalable, making them suitable for smaller farms.

Defining Autonomy in Agriculture

The line between autonomous and fully automated systems remains blurred. While some machines are inherently designed as autonomous, others, like tractors and harvesters, can be modified. Existing equipment, such as fertilizer spreaders, lays the groundwork for full autonomy. The future might see autonomous tractors replacing today’s combinations, backed by innovative sensor and robotics technologies.

Autonomous robots already perform tasks like sowing and weed control. While they might not yet match the performance of standard technology, their ability to work round-the-clock offers significant savings. Sensor technology is crucial for their evolution, with “sensor fusion” – combining data from various sensors – playing a vital role.

Artificial Intelligence: The Game Changer

With the integration of artificial intelligence (AI), field robots will handle more complex tasks. AI will empower them to understand and interact with their surroundings, making decisions based on patterns and structures.

Ensuring the safe operation of autonomous systems remains a challenge. Solutions range from designing risk-free operational environments to enabling robots to detect and avoid hazards. The legal aspect of autonomous machines is still a gray area, especially concerning their unattended operation in fields.

Despite the rapid advancements, human intervention remains crucial, especially for complex tasks. While robots might dominate the fields, humans will still be responsible for crop management decisions and programming these systems.

Economic Viability is Key

For autonomous systems to gain widespread acceptance, they must be cost-effective. While they promise savings in some areas, there are additional expenses in others, like redundant control systems. Their market success hinges on a clear legal framework and viable business models.

Farmers can choose from various business models, including purchasing, renting, or hiring robots as a service. Each has its pros and cons, given the rapid technological advancements.

Agritechnica 2023: A Glimpse into the Future

Agritechnica 2023 will showcase a plethora of field robots suitable for various crops and tasks. Manufacturers, startups, and universities presented their visions for a highly automated future in agriculture. The event will provide a platform for attendees to interact with exhibitors and gain insights into the world of robotics and autonomous systems.

Source: Agritechica 2023. Original press release here
Photo: FarmDroid robot conducting seeding. Credit FarmDroid

Editor & Publisher: Lukie Pieterse


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