On the 17th of August, bulb grower Henk Verdegaal finally had the opportunity to see what a robot tractor can do for his company. An AgBot from AgXeed driving a (bio) tiller and spading machine was used for this occasion.
Verdegaal has been looking at the possibilities of robot tractors for some time now. For the sake of labor savings, but also to reduce soil pressure and to be able to work more accurately.
Like a tractor, the AgBot has a three-point hitch, PTO and rear hydraulic valves. For its navigation, the Agbot uses a standard RTK GPS technique via 4G for driving straight and a second GPS signal for safety. Additionally, the device has a laser on board and a radar looks for obstacles nearby.
Verdegaal is excited about the results: the machine drives straight, turns around neatly and can be adjusted where necessary via the remote control. Measuring the field with a GPS mast and determining the front row were easy tasks. In order to determine the turning circle, data from the implements had to be entered likewise.
After the demonstration, the entrepreneur is even more convinced of the possibilities. “The approach is to use the machine for everything around the green manure crop.” He considers the robot less suitable for other field activities, although Verdegaal also sees possibilities for using sensors in the crops.
Yet there is one important limitation: There are not enough hours to make the return of investment. “The exact turning point is difficult to determine, but the 250 hours on our farm is too little for a profitable investment.” He expects, among other things, lower maintenance costs, a longer depreciation period and lighter machines. But also, for example, to be able to optimize the working speed on fuel consumption and positive impact on soil structure. These are aspects that are difficult to quantify.
It is possible that a subsidy makes the calculation more interesting. Another option is a collaboration with a grower or contractor. He wants to look at these options in the near future. His goal remains to have a robot tractor running by next July. Smiling: “Especially now that I’ve tasted it.”
Watch the video below to see the AgBot in action.