Scottish Crover robot mixes and checks grain quality in bins

08-02 | |
The Crover prototype is powered via cable and remotely controlled. By 2025, Crover aims for full autonomy. - Photo: Geert Hekkert
The Crover prototype is powered via cable and remotely controlled. By 2025, Crover aims for full autonomy. - Photo: Geert Hekkert

At the World FIRA 2024 agricultural robot event in Toulouse, France, the unassuming Crover caught attention not for its flashy appearance, but for its practical application: monitoring and managing grain quality in grain silos. It addresses a job where growers often face risks or perform tasks too late, resulting in significant grain loss due to quality issues.

In a small-scale model of a grain silo, the latest version of the Crover robot sifts through the wheat. Sometimes, the wobbly vehicle pauses, inserting a probe into the grain. It then analyzes moisture content and temperature at a depth of 1.5 meters, both factors crucial for grain storage and quality.

As the probe emerges, the robot, propelled by two vertical augers – each driven directly by electric motors – continues along the edge of the silo. The auger propulsion ensures thorough mixing of the grain, preventing crust formation on the surface and along the walls of the silo due to factors like condensation.

Occasionally, the robot teeters backward. However, at the top of a sled, the electronic control unit and sensor module are mounted, allowing it to slide forward and backward as a balancing mechanism when navigating inclines.

Automating a practical problem

Once placed atop the grain in the silo, the Crover can intervene locally and preventively to address grain issues caused by mold formation or harmful insects. Developers also plan to equip the robot with modules to administer insecticides or fungicides locally at an early stage.

The Crover can also connect directly to the ventilation system, activating it upon detecting early increases in humidity and temperature favorable for mold or insect growth. This allows for faster response by activating fans before resorting to chemical means.

Priced at approximately $ 15,000 each.

Scottish company Crover intends to equip the robot with a tool for taking samples to send to the laboratory for analysis. Work is underway to make the roughly thirty-kilogram robot fully autonomous, capable of continuously monitoring silo status as needed. Initial safety certifications are expected in the coming months, focusing on fire risk prevention and avoiding grain loss. Crover aims to have the first market-ready units by 2025, priced at approximately $ 15,000 each. Grain producers with multiple silos can choose to relocate the robot weekly or invest in multiple Crovers.

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Geert Hekkert Chief editor of Future Farming