French grower Gauthier Thevenon: ‘Oz robot’s versatility delivers great benefits’

Photos: Maxence Guillaumot
Photos: Maxence Guillaumot

In 2021, French grower Gauthier Thevenon decided to invest in a weeding robot. He bought an “Oz” robot from French manufacturer Naïo Technologies. After a season and a half of working with Oz, he shares his experiences with us.​

“It is a good thing we had the robot at that time!” Gauthier Thevenon has been a French diversified grower for over 10 years. In 2021, he invested in the Oz robot for weeding his fields. Shortly thereafter, Gauthier had to move away from his farm due to an accident, which accelerated the implementation of the machine on his farm. Today, Gauthier tells us how Oz’s versatility has allowed him to reduce the workload on his farm.

Text continues below image

Gauthier Thevenon suffered an injury in an accident. Therefore, the robot had to be implemented on his farm as soon as possible.
Gauthier Thevenon suffered an injury in an accident. Therefore, the robot had to be implemented on his farm as soon as possible.

What was the most important reason for purchasing an autonomous robot?

“To manage weed pressure, I used a wheel cultivator and an electric hoe with a battery in the back. This work was very physical and time consuming, I could not do it anymore with my injury. To free up my time, I had to choose between finding a seasonal worker or investing in a better weeding system. Finding personnel to do this work is very difficult, and it would be too expensive.

How did you learn about this technology?

Two years ago, I contacted my dealer to find a solution and he told me about the Oz weeding robot. I was quite skeptical at first, so I watched many videos before going to a public demonstration. After testing it on my farm, I realized that it was exactly the machine I needed.”

Text continues below image

Oz weeding green beans.
Oz weeding green beans.

How much time did it take to get used to the robot?

Oz can be operated using the remote controller.
Oz can be operated using the remote controller.

“When you buy the robot you get one day of training with an expert. The training consists of showing us how to create our own maps with the robot, set the tools, and operate the machine together to learn how it works in the field.

How user-friendly is it?

The robot is very easy to handle and after this training, we are fully autonomous. We move it and adjust the depth of the tools with a remote control. To start working with the robot, we just have to select the right map. For that, we have access to a small interface on the robot with some buttons, nothing very complicated.”

How did it go once you really started working with the robot?

“Due to my accident at the beginning of the season, it was important that the robot was implemented on my farm as soon as possible. It quickly fulfilled its weeding objectives and even started to be used for other tasks such as seeding and opening the furrows before transplanting.

What problems did you encounter?

The problems that arose in the first year were some issues with the emergency button, a burnt-out circuit board and loss of GPS signal.”

Text continues below image

Lettuce cultivated in beds.
Lettuce cultivated in beds.

How is service and maintenance organized?

The service and maintenance are managed directly by the manufacturer. We pay a € 1,200 subscription fee which includes: the cost of various subscriptions, access to a hotline, updates, and the mapping service. For all unexpected events, problems are solved within an hour by phone or within 24 hours on site by a Naïo technician.”

Text continues below image

Gauthier Thevenon uses Oz for planting and weeding, like in this carrot field.
Gauthier Thevenon uses Oz for planting and weeding, like in this carrot field.

Did you have to change the way you cultivate your crops for the robot? Or how you manage your farm?

“Initially, I grew my vegetables in a bed system using a tractor. The soil was prepared with the tractor, and I planted, sowed, and weeded manually. I now cultivate the soil more carefully with the tractor because I am using only the robot for all the other tasks like preparing the furrows, seeding, or weeding the vegetables. I lose some time during the preparation of the soil, but the versatility and autonomy of Oz makes me save a lot more time afterwards.

Working with Oz forced me to rethink my plantation system, changing from a bed configuration to a line system. For small crops, like carrots or radishes, removing the wheel track of the tractor helps me to save some space. But for the bigger crops, like lettuces or zucchinis, the robot can work only between the lines. Therefore, for bigger crops that do not need much spacing, I keep them in a bed configuration since it would take too much space if I had to leave 70 cm between each row.”

Text continues below image

Oz equipped with a carrot seeder.
Oz equipped with a carrot seeder.

How do you use the robot?

“Every morning, I equip Oz with the tools and program it to go to the plot. Then I choose the map, set the working depth and it is ready to work 3 hours in full autonomy at a speed of 1,8km/hour. During this time, I’m able do something else on the farm. When the work is done or if a problem occurs, Oz sends me a text message. Afterwards, either I change the plot or the tool, or I program it to go back to the barn by itself. During the peak season, the robot works 4 days a week. It runs 8 hours a day before recharching.

How has the robot evolved since you started working with it?

At the beginning, the robot was only used for weeding, with all types of weeding tools. After a few months, I realized it offered many more possibilities. The more hours the robot works, the more time I save to do other things. So, I quickly diversified and increased the frequency of use to be able to manage the weeds at the right time.”

Text continues below image

Every morning, Gauthier Thevenon equips Oz with tools and programs it to go to the plot. After choosing the right map and setting the proper working depth,  Oz is ready to work fully autonomously.
Every morning, Gauthier Thevenon equips Oz with tools and programs it to go to the plot. After choosing the right map and setting the proper working depth, Oz is ready to work fully autonomously.

Can you say how well or accurately the robot navigates?

Even if I prepare the soil with the tractor and a rotary harrow, the irregularities of the soil can affect the robot’s stability, despite the twin wheels. The manufacturer claims an RTK accuracy of 1-2 cm, I would say it’s more like 3-4 centimeters. But the robot’s accuracy is much better than than what I was doing manually or with the tractor. All the seedlings and furrows are straight, the weeding is done much more efficiently because I can pass earlier and more regularly, with between 3 and 4 passes.”

How do you imagine your robot evolving in the coming years?

“There are two tasks I would like the robot to improve on: helping for harvest and planting. Even if the robot opens the furrows, I still must plant manually. For harvesting, I have tried a lifting blade to help me pick up the celery, but that is the only vegetable the robot helps me with. I have tried a trailer pulled by the robot to help me pick up the vegetables and bring them to the storage, but it was not stable enough, and I do not want to risk damaging the crops.”

Text continues below image

Oz travels to and from the field autonomously. It works 8 hours before the battery needs to be recharged.
Oz travels to and from the field autonomously. It works 8 hours before the battery needs to be recharged.

What advice would you give to other growers who are considering buying a robot?

“I think it is important to have single block fields and preferably with private roads, because it makes the logistics much easier. Before purchasing one, it makes sense to test the machine on your farm to make sure it works in your soil conditions, and if the GPS reception is good. If all these conditions are verified, you can start rethinking and adapting your farm to delegate as much work as possible to the robot.”

Guillaumot
Maxence Guillaumot Product and Market Analyst, AgTech Market
More about



Beheer