The AvL Motion Compact S9000, Exobotic Technologies Land-A2, InsightTRAC Rover, Naïo Jo and Nexus Robotics La Chèvre robots are the finalists for the first-ever global Ag Robot of the Year award. An expert jury selected them from 16 candidates.
Five outdoor field and harvest robots that crop growers can buy or rent in 2023, have made it to the finals of the first ever global Ag Robot of the Year election. They were selected by four Future Farming editors involved with field robots and autonomous vehicles and a researcher of robotics and precision agriculture from Wageningen University & Research (WUR). Geert Hekkert (Editor in Chief), editors Maxence Guillaumot, René Koerhuis and Mick Roberts and Bram Veldhuisen (researcher), each evaluated 16 candidates for the award. These 16 candidates, field and harvest robots that were added to Future Farming’s buying guide after 1 November 2022, automatically qualified for the Ag Robot of the Year 2023 award.
The jury members judged in what way the candidates are able to provide the most added value (return on investment) for growers worldwide and help with a more planet-friendly or sustainable way of growing outdoor crops. Their judgements resulted in the following five finalists in alphabetical order.
This robot selectively harvests fully autonomous by following the bed and detecting asparagus without touching the bed. It requires one operator to among others turn the robot at the end of each row. It has a 25 kW diesel engine and a generator to supply electricity. The maximum harvesting speed is 3.6 km/h and the speed control is adaptive, depending on the number of speers to be harvested. The robot is for sale in a limited number of European countries from €400,000.
The Land-A2 is a multipurpose tool carrier with a patent pending modular design that allows it to be configured easily for multiple applications while still keeping its payload body balanced out on rough terrain. It uses a battery plug system for fast and easy in field battery replacement and has a 4×4 electric drivetrain. The robot is available in a limited number of European countries starting from €50,000.
This autonomous rover travels through almond orchards, identifies mummies, and safely removes them with biodegradable pellets to eliminate pests like the navel orange worm who burrow inside of the mummies in wintertime. The Rover robot is fully autonomous and can remove a mummy in under a second. It is a fully electric machine with two batteries and an on-board diesel generator that can supply extra power. available in the US and Australia from US $210,000.
Jo is a compact tracked robot designed for narrow and hilly vineyards. It has a potential for other specialised crops like trees, seedlings, orchards and can work outdoors, but also in greenhouses. The robot is battery powered and has two electrically driven tracks. Its standard implement linkage is brought by a French specialised company in soil cultivation and weed management. Jo is available worldwide for prices starting at €100,000.
This field robot is capable of removing weeds from many different crops while operating 24 hours a day. It is able to recognise crops at all stages of growth and uses cameras and a neural network to differentiate between weeds and crops. It is battery powered (charged by a diesel generator) and has an electric drive system and it can be as productive as 5 field workers pulling weeds. ‘The goat’ is available in North America for US $500,000 or for US $50,000 per growing season.
The five finalists will be judged by the above-mentioned Future Farming and WUR experts, by Laurent De Buyer (general manager of French branch organisation Axema) and by these prominent farmers and dealers from different parts of the world:
· Chuck Baresich (distributor, Canada)
· Ian Beecher-Jones (wine grower, UK)
· Walter Kihm (arable farmer, France & Ukraine)
· Gerrit Kurstjens (arable farmer, Australia)
· Frederico Logemann (arable farmer, Brazil)
· Michael Nichols (arable farmer, Australia)
· Steve Pitstick (arable farmer, USA)
This jury will pay particular attention to practical applicability and added value for farming practices. At the end of this article, the jury members are introduced in more detail.
With the new Ag Robot of the Year award, the initiators aim to support farmers worldwide in choosing the right type of robot for their farming operation. The winners will be announced at World FIRA taking place from 7 to 9 February 2023 in Toulouse/Auzeville-Tolosane (France).