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Ag-Robot Buying Guide 2024 is out now

23-11-2023 | Updated on 13-02 | |
Like in previous years, the multipurpose category contains the most robots. It is notable that an increasing number of manufacturers are betting on relatively small two-track vehicles that can replace a compact, orchard/vineyard or even a standard tractor. - Photo: FieldRobotics
Like in previous years, the multipurpose category contains the most robots. It is notable that an increasing number of manufacturers are betting on relatively small two-track vehicles that can replace a compact, orchard/vineyard or even a standard tractor. - Photo: FieldRobotics

For the fourth consecutive year, Future Farming magazine has compiled the most comprehensive overview of field and harvest robots for outdoor crop production. Sixty different robots have reached the commercial stage and can be bought or leased for publicly known prices. Take your pick!

In 2020, Future Farming magazine published its first field and harvest robot buyers’ guide. A catalogue listed the autonomous robots – not autonomous tractors – that farmers worldwide can buy, lease or rent to help them produce crops outdoors. The catalogue has steadily been expanded over the past three years.

Last year, 50 commercially available and publicly priced field and harvest robots qualified. This year’s edition again shows the diversity and also the volatility of a landscape and playing field with growing pains. So far, just one or two major machinery and tractor manufacturers have entered the playing field. Yes, we’ve seen prototypes from manufacturers such as Grimme, Horsch, Krone/Lemken and soon Kuhn, but so far, the playing field is – at least on stage rather than behind the scenes – still dominated by startups and scaleups. Some of these startups have meanwhile been partially or fully welcomed by established machinery or tractor manufacturers.

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Weeding robots are very well represented in the category specialised robots. They hoe, spray or in the case of the machine in this photo, boil weeds to eliminate them. - Photo: Klaas Eissens
Weeding robots are very well represented in the category specialised robots. They hoe, spray or in the case of the machine in this photo, boil weeds to eliminate them. - Photo: Klaas Eissens

First models retire

The first field robots are now ‘retiring’ to be succeeded by a new generation or an alternative model. Field robotics pioneer Naïo Technologies early on introduced the Orio as a successor to their Dino. Another pioneer, AgroIntelli, will be favouring their latest Robotti LR model above their initial 150D model from next year on. Robotti 150D will remain available as a pre-owned model.

Compared to last year’s edition, four manufacturers are no longer listed is this years’ buyers’ guide: Elatec, H2Trac, InsightTRAC and Lapalme. Elatec will be focusing on an intelligent tool that can be mounted on market garden robots rather than on an autonomous vehicle. H2Trac went bankrupt late last year. The company restarted under a different name and their vehicle will be moved to the autonomous tractors section. InsightTRAC won the Future Farming and FIRA Ag Robot of the Year award in February this year, but preferred to be removed from the online catalogue for unknown reasons. And Lapalme sold the Intellectual Property (IP) of their broccoli harvesting robot to Sami Agtech. They’re inclined to re-enter after a product redesign.

Phased out and removed robots can still be found in a separate online section so farmers can find the correct specifications and last known recommended retail prices.

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Automating transportation can make a viable and valuable contribution to increasing the efficiency and productivity of manual fruit picking. This is Valera from Ant Robotics. - Photo: Ant Robotics
Automating transportation can make a viable and valuable contribution to increasing the efficiency and productivity of manual fruit picking. This is Valera from Ant Robotics. - Photo: Ant Robotics

Why a catalogue matters

Field and harvest robots are no longer just a ‘nice to have’ item for early adopters and frontrunners. For more and more farmers across all continents, they have become a necessity to deal with labour shortages, resistance to and restrictions on the use of crop protection chemicals. Autonomous robots are becoming indispensable and farmers cannot run on concepts, empty promises and unknown purchase prices. Farmers expect robots to perform tasks equally well or better than existing machinery and human labour. They need to work and earn/save money for them, and to be serviced and repaired in due time (supported by local dealers/experts). This is why a catalogue with commercially available and priced robots matters. There are already farmers’ experiences with field robots producing bigger, better quality and more uniform crops. Have a look at the online testimonials at www.futurefarming.com for examples in this respect.

With four participants taken down, there are 46 robots remaining compared to the previous edition of the catalogue in print. A further 14 new field and harvest robots also qualified for the catalogue in print resulting in 60 robots in total. The remainder of the over 120 field and harvest robots currently on our radar are not ready to participate yet or did not respond (in time).

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Another example of automating transportation. This is Burro from Augean Robotics. - Photo: Ant Robotics
Another example of automating transportation. This is Burro from Augean Robotics. - Photo: Ant Robotics

Categories to help you choose

It makes quite a difference whether you’re looking for a robot specialised in for instance mechanical weeding or spraying, for a multipurpose robot, or for a harvesting robot for a particular type of crop, fruit or vegetable. The robots in this catalogue are therefore divided into three different and meanwhile well-known categories:

  1. Multipurpose robots that can perform multiple tasks and jobs such as carrying different implements.
  2. Specialised robots intended to perform a single task/job such as crop or field scouting, weed removal or spraying.
  3. Harvest robots that can harvest outdoor crops autonomously (we don’t include indoor/greenhouse harvest robots).

A total of 37 of the 60 robots in the catalogue can be characterised as multipurpose and are thus capable of performing more than a single task or operation. Nineteen are dedicated to a special task and there are four harvesting robots. Like in previous years, the multipurpose category contains the most alternatives. It is notable that an increasing number of manufacturers are betting on relatively small two track vehicles that can replace a compact, orchard/vineyard or even a standard tractor.

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It is also interesting to see that manufacturers from more countries are taking part in the buyer’s guide. This year’s edition contains field and harvest robots from Germany, Hungary, Italy, New Zealand and Sweden for the first time.

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Koerhuis
René Koerhuis Precision Farming Specialist





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