Machinery

News last update:22 Oct 2019

SwarmFarm and Roesner develop autonomous fertiliser spreader

SwarmFarm Robotics and Roesner Pty Ltd in Australia are going to develop a fully autonomous fertiliser spreader.

SwarmFarm CEO Andrew Bate and Technical Director Matthew Roesner of Roesner have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the development of the robot. They plan to have a fully functioning prototype in 6 months.

SwarmFarm autonomous platform

The collaboration between the 2 Australian companies will focus on the integration of the Marshall Multispread fertiliser spreader and the i4M control system for variable rate applications with SwarmFarm’s autonomous platform and SwarmConnect TM.

Andrew Bate calls the MOU a significant advancement for adoption of precision agriculture. “This partnership closes the loop between crop decisions, variable rate applications and autonomous farming”, he explains. “It takes everything from precision ag data through to precision ag decisions and then through to the autonomous applications.”

Developing and demonstrating the concept of an autonomous spreader provides a glimpse into the future of farming

“Variable rate spreading of agricultural inputs is the most utilised form of precision agriculture around the world, so the partnership with Roesner was a logical step”, says Andrew. “It closes the link between spreading operations and autonomous agriculture. Developing and demonstrating the concept of an autonomous spreader provides a glimpse into the future of farming where smaller, lightweight machines apply fertilisers more precisely and in a more timely manner to better match crop requirements.”

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A 'proof of concept' autonomous fertiliser spreader. Photo: Swarmfarm
A 'proof of concept' autonomous fertiliser spreader. Photo: Swarmfarm

The new SwarmFarm robot with fertiliser spreader will be one of the first of its kind. Another company that has developed a simular concept is DOT Technology Corp. in Canada.

Matthew Roesner says that the new partnership offers Roesner the possibility to integrate its technology into an autonomous vehicle. “In this way we can apply the fertiliser in a even more targeted way”, he explains.

Capture biomass data on the run

He says that the i4M Control system, by Precision Agronomics Australia, the dedicated precision ag division of Roesner, will enable the SwarmFarm integrated spreader to carry out variable rate prescriptions and capture biomass data on the run.

The technical director says there is plenty of interest from farmers. “That ranges from the larger corporate farmers through to the small family farms.

Better matching crop requirements and applications

Andrew Bate emphasises that certain areas of the field need different nutrition at different times in the season. “To do that autonomous is something new in precision ag. It opens the case for better matching crop requirements and applications. As the season evolves, instead of putting bigger applications on early in the season, we can apply multiple split application throughout the season.”

It will save farmers money because it will lead to more efficient use of nutrition and other products

This approach leads to more efficient use of nitrogen and other fertilisers, says Andrew. “It will save farmers money because it will lead to more efficient use of nutrition and other products. It will lead to higher yields as well. In this case we use smaller 3 ton spreaders. The robots are lighter so there is less compaction of the soil.”

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CEO Andrew Bate of SwarmFarm: "Developing and demonstrating the concept of an autonomous spreader provides a glimpse into the future of farming where smaller, lightweight machines apply fertilisers more precisely and in a more timely manner to better match crop requirements.” - Photo: SwarmFarm
CEO Andrew Bate of SwarmFarm: "Developing and demonstrating the concept of an autonomous spreader provides a glimpse into the future of farming where smaller, lightweight machines apply fertilisers more precisely and in a more timely manner to better match crop requirements.” - Photo: SwarmFarm

New agronomy and field practices

Andrew points out that SwarmFarm is opening up new opportunities and new agronomy and field practices. “It is going to change the agronomy and spreading decisions of nutrition”, he says. SwarmFarm has already commercially released multiple applications, such as optical spot spraying of weeds, blanket spraying and mowing. These are now fully autonomous and unmanned field operations working on commercial farms.

SwarmFarm Robotics will also introduce an autonomous dock and refill system for its robots. This is expected to be available in 6 months and will be suitable for liquids and granules. SwarmFarm, based in Gindie, Queensland, has machines commercially deployed in orchards, turf farms and on broadacre grain and cotton farms.

Marshall Multispread

Roesner is a 120 year old manufacturing company based in Harvey, Western Australia. Roesner’s flagship brand, Marshall Multispread, is Australia’s number one selling all purpose fertiliser spreader, with 10,000 units built since the early 1980’s. Precision Agronomics Australia (PAA) is a division of Roesner Pty Ltd, producing machinery control and variable rate solutions for the Australia and European markets.

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