At the current birth rate, experts predict we will reach 9 billion by 2050. To feed everyone, we’ll need to double the amount of food we currently produce.
Climate change, however, is anticipated to reduce future cereal yields and threaten food security.
Robotics and automation could help farmers produce more food, more sustainably at lower cost.
No wonder that the market for agricultural robots is developing at a rapid pace.
Agricultural robots are designed to plow, plant, spray, prune, milk, pick, shear, and harvest. They excel at repetitive or dangerous tasks, letting farmers tend to more strategic matters.
At KATANA, we checked out 4 agribots, that are, each in their own way, changing what European farmers are capable of and how they are getting work done. Did we miss the next big thing? Leave us a note in the comments.
Ted, a winemaker’s assistant
France-based startup Naïo Technologies is a six-year-old company that develops and markets robots for agriculture and viticulture. Founded by Aymeric Barthes and Gaetan Severac, the company offers a range of robots that allow for fast, efficient, and effortless mechanical weeding control.
Ted, a straddling robotic weeder, is the latest member of the NT family. It is designed to assist vineyard owners of the Southwestern France in their various tasks. Equipped with a variety of sensors, Ted can mechanically and autonomously weed vineyards and vine plants.
Although mechanical weeding is its first application, Ted is expected soon to be able to collect data from different sources, but also to mow, prune, spray. Ted is to be marketed in 2018.
Lala – The future of agriculture? It comes with a joystick
Lala is the only robot in Serbia that caters to agricultural needs. It is a platform that combines different sensors, and is designed to automate the work of a farmer, while at the same time delivering actionable laboratory insights.
The sky’s the limit for what drones and satellite imagery can do for growers. Lala, however, is able to perform a similar set of functionalities on the ground. In an orchard, Lala wanders around, checking if plants need water, or additional fertilizer. It can also identify which plants are ripe for harvest.
This agribot was created by a team of young scientists from the BioSense institute, a multidisciplinary research institute in Vojvodina, Serbia.
ecoRobotix – A solar-powered robot weeder
Swiss company ecoRobotix has recently celebrated the delivery of ten pre-series specimens of the robot-weeder, that it says can reduce herbicide by up to 95 percent. And the icing on the cake? This 100% solar-powered vehicle is capable of working up to 12 hours a day.
ecoRobotix was founded in 2011 by Aurelien G. Demaurex and Steve Tanner: “Our motivation was environmental in the first place, with the reduction of herbicides, but we would also like to try to make work on the soil look more attractive to the successive generations”.
In November 2016, the company successfully closed its first funding round at €2.8M, and it currently employs 10 people, mostly engineers, at its headquarters in Yverdon-les-Bains. The market launch of the machines is scheduled to take place early next year.
Wall-Ye V.I.N – Designed to tend vineyards
Wall-Ye V.I.N. is an intelligent-vision based robot designed to tend vineyards. It takes on labor-intensive chores that no one else wants to take on such as pruning and de-suckering – removing unproductive young shoots – while testing soil, and keeping an eye on plant health.
Chronic staff shortage actually served as a key point of inspiration for this vineyard robot. The brainchild of Burgundy-based investor Christophe Millot, the Wall-Ye V.I.N. robot can reportedly autonomously prune 600 vines per day.
This robotic vine pruner is still in the test phase. “Every time, the winemakers do not take long to be convinced,” admits Millot. This comes as no surprise given that the robot boldly goes where no tractor has gone before.
[This article is a part of our daily series ‘Future trends’]