These are the Best Field Robot Concepts of 2021

09-12-2021 | |
These are the Best Field Robot Concepts of 2021
The awards for the Best Field Robot Concept were presented at the annual FIRA field robot event in Toulouse, France. - Photo: Fira

Vermeer, Horsch and Ripe Robotics won the Best Field Robot Concept Awards 2021. An international expert jury selected their robot concepts from 14 candidates.

During the international agricultural robot event FIRA on 9 December, the Vermeer Bale Hawk, Horsch Roboter and Ripe Robotics Eve were announced winners of the Best Field Robot Concept (BFRC) Awards 2021. An international expert jury chose their concepts as the most promising robot concepts that were covered on www.futurefarming.com over the last 12 months and those who applied to a call from FIRA and Future Farming.

Platform for most promising robot concepts

All over the world, smart and passionate engineers and inventors are developing field robots that should make farmers’ lives easier and more efficient and to replace human effort. Robots, which are actually at work today, provide agricultural and horticultural businesses with enormous advantages of significant technological advances. They enable crop cultivation with less labour, fewer chemicals and fertilisers and fewer greenhouse gas emissions. Which of these field robot concepts are the most original and have the potential to really contribute to increased and more sustainable food production but are not yet commercially available? In other words: which field robot concepts deserve to win the ‘Best Field Robot Concept Awards 2021’?

For this second edition of the BFRC Awards, three prizes were awarded in the categories specialised, multipurpose and harvest robots.

Nominees

10 out of 14 candidates made it to the shortlist:

Nominees category ‘Specialised’:

  • Carbon Robotics’ weeder tackles problem weeds with laser
  • Tensorfield Tensorbot kills weeds with super-heated veg oil
  • Vermeer Bale Hawk bale mover
  • Yanmar YV01 spray robot

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Nominees category ‘Multipurpose’:

  • Future Acres Carry robotic harvest assistant
  • Horsch Roboter autonomous agricultural carrier
  • Robotriks Traction Unit low-cost autonomous farm assistant

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Nominees category ‘Harvest’:

  • Advanced Farm Technologies robotic strawberry harvester
  • Muddy Machines green asparagus harvesting robot
  • Ripe Robotics fruit picking robot Eve

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Criteria and jury

All candidates were evaluated by each individual member of the jury on:

3 hard criteria:

  1. Originality
  2. Feasibility
  3. Potential to impact farmer’s life

2 soft criteria were used to conclude on any likely ex aequo results:

  1. Ease of farmer uptake
  2. Sustainability

The jury members are: Gerrit Kurstjens (AUS): arable farmer in Australia with 40,000 ha of autonomous experience at Beefwood Farms, Rohan Rainbow (AUS): Managing Director of Crop Protection Australia, Walt Duflock (US): VP Innovation at Western Growers (association of growers in California, with the Global Harvesting Automation initiative), Bram Veldhuisen (NL): researcher precision farming and robotics at Wageningen University and Research (WUR), Geert Hekkert (NL): Editor in Chief of Future Farming, Mick Roberts (UK): Future Farming editor specialised in ag-drones and spray technology and René Koerhuis (NL): Future Farming editor specialised in agricultural robots.

BFRC Awards 2021 – the winners

The jury chose the Vermeer Bale Hawk bale mover as the winner in the category ‘Specialised’ because their concept fits the criteria the best. Powered by a diesel engine, running on tracks and with autonomous operation, it collects the bales and drops them off at the designated storage area. Interestingly, it detects the location of the bales using LiDAR sensors and cameras normally used for avoiding obstacles.

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The Vermeer Bale Hawk bale mover is powered by a diesel engine. Running on tracks and with autonomous operation, it collects the bales and drops them off at the designated storage area. - Photo: Vermeer
The Vermeer Bale Hawk bale mover is powered by a diesel engine. Running on tracks and with autonomous operation, it collects the bales and drops them off at the designated storage area. - Photo: Vermeer

The jury chose the Horsch Roboter autonomous agricultural carrier as the winner in the category ‘Multipurpose’. Its 400 hp engine and Claas Twin-Trac drive does indicate its interest lies in larger power units, akin to today’s tractors. Three factors are required for autonomous operations, Horsch says: first there’s a track planning system, which will need geo-fencing to constrain operations and probably the most important factor is safety. Horsch adds from a technical point of view it is working on different concepts – and currently doesn’t know which will stand the test of time.

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The jury chose the Horsch Roboter autonomous agricultural carrier as the winner in the category ‘Multipurpose’. Its 400 hp engine and Claas Twin-Trac drive does indicate its interest lies in larger power units, akin to today’s tractors. - Photo: Horsch
The jury chose the Horsch Roboter autonomous agricultural carrier as the winner in the category ‘Multipurpose’. Its 400 hp engine and Claas Twin-Trac drive does indicate its interest lies in larger power units, akin to today’s tractors. - Photo: Horsch

The jury chose the Ripe Robotics fruit picking robot Eve as the winner in the category ‘Harvest’. Electric drive propels the robot along a row of fruit trees, using its on-board camera system, with the data is processed through a deep neural network, to identify ripe fruit. Currently a person monitoring to the system intervenes if the Eve can’t decide on the ripeness. This also helps it to learn. Suction tubes harvest the fruit and transport it to the holding bin.

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The Ripe Robotics fruit picking robot Eve is the winner in the category ‘Harvest’. Electric drive propels the robot along a row of fruit trees, using its on-board camera system, with the data is processed through a deep neural network, to identify ripe fruit. - Photo: Ripe Robotics
The Ripe Robotics fruit picking robot Eve is the winner in the category ‘Harvest’. Electric drive propels the robot along a row of fruit trees, using its on-board camera system, with the data is processed through a deep neural network, to identify ripe fruit. - Photo: Ripe Robotics

The Award winners are entitled to use the golden BFRC Award logo for 1 year, will receive a beautiful canvas with their award and get a free booth on the World FIRA 2022 online event.

FIRA and Future Farming wish to thank all candidates and congratulates the winners of the BFRC Awards 2021!

Koerhuis
René Koerhuis Precision Farming Specialist
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