March 20th is the first day of spring, making spring much closer than even I expected. On the farm I grew up on in Minnesota there were considerable fears when it comes to this time of year. Of course, early warm weather is a nice surprise but that might be followed with a late snow storm. By far and above the worst condition in spring is warm weather and good soil temps but wet soil. Everything is ready to go but because of the weight of your machinery you don’t dare drive into your field. One day soon this fear might be a thing of the past thanks to several agricultural automation companies.
One such company is Agrointelli out of Aarhus, Denmark, which has been researching and building their solution called the Robotti. This modular autonomous implement carrier uses a diesel engine to power its four powered wheels. The unit only weighs 1,323 lbs. (600 Kg) and has a three-point hitch capable of lifting 1,653 lbs. (750 Kg). The unit is not fast, with a top speed of 5 mph (8 km/h), but with field operations in mind you obviously don’t need anything faster than that.
Operated by a phone or tablet this system can be easily deployed in the field by utilizing smaller existing implements. The device is compact and unlike traditional tractors the system hooks up around the implement, providing even weight distribution through the tires of the unit. It is also capable of low draft force operations like weed control in a large variety of row crops. The weight distribution in combination with the total weight make this machine able to operate in wetter conditions that would stop heavier tractors or cause severe soil compaction.
The company is currently improving the design and software and researching an all-electric version of the Robotti. While the company refines this system they are also focused on what their core products of agricultural navigation software and autonomous navigation tools. These two products make designing their own autonomous tractor an easy choice. The Agrointelli envisions an integrated network where all farm equipment, including drones, communicate and share information to make a more informed and effective farm operation.
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On top of this, the company’s team of 15 personnel is working on a weed-targeting camera called RoboWeedCamRT. Using advanced machine learning, the system is able to identify weeds and weed populations in the field during spraying operations. This would enable the sprayer to adjust the dose depending on weed pressure.
This is some interesting outside the box thinking but it will be a while before this technology will be common place. Agrointelli does not currently list a price for their Robotti or if they have import plans for the U.S. Until then well have to keep farming the way we did last year.