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World’s first robot catalogue with 35 propositions

In Future Farming’s very first robot catalogue you will find 35 field and harvest robots, which you will be able to buy, lease or hire in 2021. Their manufacturers already have close to 2,000 units out in the field at prices ranging from € 9,995 to a stunning € 590,000.

As thé global media reference for agricultural robots and autonomous vehicles for open field production, Future Farming has prepared an overview of 35 field and harvest robots that will be commercially available in 2021. Some manufacturers have already sold 1,500 units, while others currently just have a first prototype.

Autonomous field and harvest robots

Together with the International Forum of Agricultural Robotics (FIRA), we have reached out to all start-ups, scale-ups, SMEs and multi-nationals to apply for a position in our robot catalogue. The reactions were overwhelming with nearly 80 robot manufacturers responding. In this catalogue you’ll find autonomous field and harvest robots suitable for open field production of nearly all types of crop. From cereals and lettuce to carrots, oranges and citrus fruits, for orchards and vineyards of course, and even for arboriculture and silviculture. We selected the field and harvest robots that you can buy, lease or hire as a service in 2021 and that are not based on standard tractors (retrofitted) with an autonomous auto pilot. All timely and complete applications are included.

As you can imagine, this catalogue cannot be complete, as new agricultural robots are being introduced nearly every month. For instance, a handful of companies did not apply as they’re only launching their robot later this year or early next year. These will be featured in the online ctalogue as soon as possible.

View the catalogue

Robots from sixteen countries

The development and production of field and harvest robots clearly is a global business. The catalogue contains robots from 16 countries all over the world. From small countries such as Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands to Australia, Canada, China, France and the United States.

So where are these manufacturers concentrated? As you probably would have guessed, most of the manufacturers are from the USA, seven to be precise. The runner-up is a country you won’t expect to be in second place: it’s the Netherlands, with six manufacturers.

Does this have to do with the influence of Wageningen University and Research? Probably. In fact, there was a 7th Dutch manufacturer that probably produced the very first commercially available field robot ever, the Greenbot, but its recently ceased production. Five French robot manufacturers are included in the catalogue.

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Most currently available field robots are intended to weed in high-value row crops such as lettuce. - Photo: FarmWise
Most currently available field robots are intended to weed in high-value row crops such as lettuce. - Photo: FarmWise

No robots from large tractor manufacturers

Interestingly, there are no field or harvest robots included from any of the large tractor manufacturers. Where are their robot concepts and prototypes hiding out? They are surely anxiously keeping track of possible partners to cooperate with, or thnking about acquiring promising concepts in future, as some of these robots clearly aim to replace today’s tractors and machines at some point in time.

If we go back 50 years, we’ve seen many tractor manufacturers around the world. Most of them have been integrated into or acquired by the tractor giants, while others have died a silent death. It will be very interesting to see what the robot manufacturer landscape will look like in 50 years from now.

France is probably the country with the most agricultural and field robots sold and operating. According to ZDNet, the country recently passed the 10,000 mark for ag robots. Milking robots and other animal husbandry robots account for nearly 99% of this number, but there are also at least 100 robots for weed management and 10 robots being used by viticulture entrepreneurs.

Other countries or regions with a high concentration of field robots are Australia, California, China, Germany, the Netherlands and Scandinavia.

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France is probably is the country with the most agricultural and field robots sold and in operation. - Photo: Vitibot
France is probably is the country with the most agricultural and field robots sold and in operation. - Photo: Vitibot

Most are used for weed elimination

As far as robot activities are concerned, most field robots in the catalogue are intended for eliminating weeds in row crops. Various factors influence this popularity, such as sustainable food production, governmental and societal pressure on the use of herbicides and − strengthened by travel restrictions and lockdowns due to the Covid-19 pandemic − a lack of (skilled) labour to manually weed in organic cropping systems.

Most of the weeding robots rely on mechanical weed removal to try and eliminate herbicides completely, whereas others only spot spray weeds to reduce herbicide use by up to 95%. But there are also tests being done with targeted electrocution of weeds and elimination with laser, light and microwaves.

High-value crops such as several types of lettuce, strawberry, (blue) berries, oranges/citrus fruits and winery grapes seem to present the best business cases for weeding robots. Especially where steep terrain is dangerous for tractor drivers and field workers.

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Although there are only four open field harvest robots for sale, there are plenty more to come in the next couple of years. Two out of four featured and commercially available harvest robots pick strawberries, like this one form Harvest CROO. - Photo: Harvest CROO
Although there are only four open field harvest robots for sale, there are plenty more to come in the next couple of years. Two out of four featured and commercially available harvest robots pick strawberries, like this one form Harvest CROO. - Photo: Harvest CROO

Soil cultivation, seeding, crop care and mowing

There are also quite a few field robots that can take over activities from tractors, including soil cultivation, seeding, crop care and mowing. Sometimes followed by open field harvest robots for produce such as apples, asparagus and strawberries. Speaking of which, two out of four featured and commercially available harvest robots pick strawberries. And in the near future we will also see harvest robots (and even harvest drones) for broccoli, citrus fruits, cauliflower, kiwi fruit, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, lettuce, mangos, water melon and others. The most remarkable robot in our catalogue is surely the autonomous rock picker.

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It’s a challenge to replace the skills, experience, care and speed of human harvesters, but gradually robots are able to take over the harvesting of fruits such as apples, kiwis, mangos, water melons and others. - Photo: FFRobotics
It’s a challenge to replace the skills, experience, care and speed of human harvesters, but gradually robots are able to take over the harvesting of fruits such as apples, kiwis, mangos, water melons and others. - Photo: FFRobotics

What do they cost?

For mobile field robots prices start at around € 10,000. Size seems to correspond to the investment required, as the smallest robots are also the cheapest ones. Yet a basic starting price of € 10,000 can quickly increase to € 30,000 for an operational version. For that same amount in dollars, you can also buy a fully operational unmanned orchard management machine for spraying, mowing, transportation and collecting data. The most affordable robot in the overview costs as little as US$ 2,995, but this is not a mobile field robot.

By far the highest investment, which is for the largest field robot in the overview, is US$ 700,000 (about € 590,000) for an automated platform unit for seeding, spreading and spraying crops. This price however includes a custom seed drill, fertiliser spreader and sprayer.

A pricing model that is helping to accelerate the adoption as well as the affordability of field and harvest robots is the ‘as a service’ concept. Several, perhaps most robot manufacturers offer such a AaS concept. They no longer sell equipment but offer services such as weed-free fields or maintained hectares.

In general, agriculture seems to be lagging behind other industries such as construction and mining, where rental and pay-per-use has become the standard. But, as consumer products and especially streaming services are increasingly subscription or pay-per-use based, we will surely see more and more farmers buying weed and disease-free services or maybe even healthy crop services from robot manufacturers and input providers.

View the catalogue

4 comments

  • JIM BOAK

    This is great stuff . Say goodbye to humans, farm families and individual property ownership. Say hello to a food system owned and operated from the ground up by Bayer, Dupont and Syngenta. There will be no need for governments These 3 will set the laws and enforce them.

  • CDR Roamer

    This is great stuff. Not sure if the family farm will be eliminated from any technologies hoping it will allow more farms to prosper and help heal our earth. The human elements of compassion, creativity and good will toward our neighbors can't be replaced by any machine and we actually need a holistic approach to solving challenges now and the future.

  • CDR Roamer

    I have a question for Rene in that I would like to learn more and how my company can help with the progression and leveraging of AI/Robotic technologies to help farmers here in USA prosper.

  • Gerrit Kurstjens

    No robots from large tractor manufacturers:
    The reason is: Robots on tractors is against the interest of tractor manufacturers. After successfully working more than 10,000 ha with 300 hp tractors equipped with robots, we noted that a tractor equipped with robot could do at least twice the work per week as a standard tractor with driver.
    One of the big tractor factories saw this and bought up this robot factory company and took it from the market plus stopping the service. Tractor factories prefer to sell 2 tractors instead of one tractor equipped with robot. We are now desperately looking for a company that can install a robot on a standard tractor. see
    <> Kurstjens farming Australia

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