Agritechnica, the world’s largest agricultural innovation showcase, drew over 470,000 visitors in 2023, featuring an unprecedented display of autonomous robots. This reaffirms the integral role ag-robots are securing in the toolkit of crop cultivators. An overview of the 18 robots that commanded attention at the Hannover exhibition in Germany.
In a span of four years since the last Agritechnica in 2019, where robots were a novelty, the 2023 edition witnessed a remarkable shift. The absence in 2021 due to Covid only heightened the anticipation, resulting in dozens of robots showcased alongside traditional tractors and implements. While fully autonomous robots are gaining ground, with examples like AgroIntelli, AgXeed, Burro, FarmDroid, GUSS and Naïo, finding utility on farms, the majority still hover between market-ready and conceptual stages.
Notably, tractor manufacturers are fast-tracking autonomous versions to retain market share against both robotic competitors and rival tractor builders. Claas, CNH, Fendt and Kubota revealed autonomous iterations of their tractors, raising the question of how farmers will respond. Will they opt for standard tractors with autonomous systems or specialised robots? The latter offers cost savings by omitting a luxury cab but potentially limits the versatility of a standard tractor.
A striking trend among robots is their emphasis on multifunctionality, aiming to perform various tasks. Additionally, there is a growing exploration of alternative energy sources such as hydrogen.
Eidam Landtechnik from Germany showed a prototype of its Innomade TK100 autonomous articulated tractor. Its 102 hp engine runs on methane stored in tanks. The fuel tanks should be sufficient to operate for 8 hours providing 80 percent of the maximum power or 6 hours at full power. At the 2019 edition of the Agritechnica, the company displayed a scale model of its tractor and 2024 will be the year of the first praxis tests. (Photo: Mark Pasveer)
Also new but already commercially available in 2024, is this Tipard 1800, also from Germany. It is a modular autonomous tool carrier not only intended for hoeing but for much more applications. Think of robotic arms for weed control and harvesting fruit and berries. Tipard 1800 is already limitedly commercially available starting at € 135,500. (Photo: Mark Pasveer)
New to the public but backed by a lot of experience in dairy farming robotics and through collaborations with Agreenculture, Kuhn finally revealed its autonomous arable robot, Karl. It is a diesel-electric powered vehicle on tracks powered by a 175 hp Volvo engine. Karl is equipped with a three-point hitch at both the front and rear. There is no PTO because Kuhn is focusing on electric drive for both the tracks and the tools. The manufacturer expects to deploy the first 0-series in 2025. (Photo: Mark Pasveer)
Both Lemken (photo) and Krone exhibited their latest version of the Combined Powers VTE robot tractor. The vehicles are meanwhile well-known and both manufacturers are gradually adding more intelligence to their respective machines to overview and monitor the work without having a driver present or nearby. (Photo: Mark Pasveer)
AgXeed, Amazone and also Claas are heading the same way with machinery capable of sensing failures and monitoring the work. Amazone launched its AutoTill concept to monitor its cultivators for failures, breakages and crop residue building up. Claas displayed their newest Xerion tractor suitable for autonomous operation. (Photo: Mark Pasveer)
Right across the aisle of Amazone, there was machinery manufacturer Rauch showcasing a prototype together with Naïo Technologies. The Naïo Orio is equipped with a modified electrically driven Rauch Aero pneumatic fertiliser spreader with 9 metres working width. The prototype will be tested next year. (Photo: Mark Pasveer)
Maybe not that familiar yet to the global audience but Slovenian PeK Automotive had an impressive stand with an apple picking Slopehelper field robot. The meanwhile extensive list with other attachments for Slopehelper to provide autonomous solutions for ‘the whole agrocycle’ is equally impressive. (Photo: René Koerhuis)
FieldRobotics from Italy revealed its HammerHead modular autonomous platform for operations of the whole agrocycle focussing on orchards and vineyards. Interesting about the compact field robot is the battery swap system for the 24/48 kWh batteries. It navigates without using gps. (Photo: René Koerhuis)
Two new German developments could be found grouped together in hall 24. Two tiny Zauberzeug Field Friends in front and a conceptual field robot from Nature Robots in the rear. Nature Robots also showcased their wireless charging option. The Field Friend is an agnostic platform suitable for several standard tools, self-built tools and third-party tools. (Photo: René Koerhuis)
Chinese manufacturer XAG might be known for its drones but is also sells this R150 autonomous rover that was on display in hall 8. It has multiple operation modes from precision crop protection, field scouting to on-farm material delivery. (Photo: René Koerhuis)
Agrar robot is born and raised in Serbia. The tool carrier has a three-point hitch in the rear, a 5 kW PTO and the possibility to connect an implement underneath the vehicle. The single or double (option) battery can be swapped and the vehicle can cope with hills up to 50 percent thanks to its automatically levelling suspension. (Photo: Mark Pasveer)
LJ Tech Ag presented its S450 autonomous orchard sprayer that will become commercially available early next year for US$ 40,000. It operates according to a teach and playback principle meaning that you have to show the robot the way the first time. It is powered by a combustion engine and the spray tank can hold 450 litres. The tank can be taken off and replaced by a weeding tool or a transportation module. The company is also working on a larger S1000 model with a 50 hp diesel generator and a 1,000 litres spray tank. (Photo: René Koerhuis)
Swiss Probotics by Brüggli had its battery powered Scarabeus mulching robot for orchards and vineyards on display. It comes with a solar panel powered docking station for recharging the batteries. There’s a mowing deck in the front and a small side mower to mow between the trees. It is said to be capable of mowing 8 hectares in 2 weeks. (Photo: René Koerhuis)
Farmunited is a component supplier for among others sprayers, navigation and irrigation and showcased their electric smartfan blower module with the cleverspray pro control system and a LiDAR sensor to detect and scan fruit trees. (Photo: René Koerhuis)
Another German component supplier, Sauer Bibus, came to Hanover with their trade show model equipped with an innovative expansion package. Their mobile autonomous drive includes the XM100 autonomy controller from Danfoss, a LiDAR sensor and a GNSS antenna. This not only enables autonomous driving but also improved environment sensing. (Photo: René Koerhuis)
Dutch Odd.Bot premiered its Weader element with in-row weed detection and mechanical weed removal by means of a Delta-arm. Instead of developing and marketing an autonomous vehicle with the Weader, the company now aims to integrate its weeding technology into various types of (self-driving) agricultural machinery by OEMs, system integrators and implement manufacturers. (Photo: René Koerhuis)
Permarobotics, a German company, plans to launch a 2024 field robot tailored for small-scale, regenerative cultivation. The U-shaped design with four electric driven wheels showcases versatility, especially in precise weeding with a robot arm. The wheels cannot steer; turning is accomplished as with tracked vehicles, by accelerating or decelerating the left and right wheels. The robot’s connectivity, powered by the openRAL system, ensures secure data handling for transparent sharing with partners and consumers. (Photo: Geert Hekkert)
Maschio Gaspardo enters the robotics sector, acquiring a majority stake in startup Free Green Nature S.r.l The collaboration leads to the Icaro X4 robot, set to launch in 2024, treating vineyards with UV-C rays autonomously. The robot reduces environmental impact significantly and integrates sophisticated technologies like autonomous navigation and sensors for human detection aligned with industry 4.0 standards. (Photo: Geert Hekkert)