Multinationals are discovering French robot event World Fira

The 8th edition of the robotics event World FIRA early February in Toulouse attracted many participants and visitors and had some surprising news in store. - Photos: René Koerhuis
The 8th edition of the robotics event World FIRA early February in Toulouse attracted many participants and visitors and had some surprising news in store. - Photos: René Koerhuis

The 8th edition of the robotics event World FIRA early February in Toulouse attracted many participants and visitors and had some surprising news in store. From weed robots and pruning robots to grain silo robots.

From February 6th to 8th, the eighth edition of the World FIRA event took place in Auzeville-Tolosane near Toulouse, France. The annual event organized by the French organization GOFAR, which stands for Global Organisation For Agricultural Robotics. For the second time, the event took place on a part of the 300-hectare site of Agrobiopole, a combination of companies, research institutions, and schools. At this location, manufacturers could freely demonstrate their products, resulting in around 30 different demos, 10 more than the previous year. The covered area tripled in size and accommodated numerous companies, startups, and various pavilions.

More farmers desired

The event attracted over 2,500 visitors from more than 50 countries, around 500 more than in 2023. With free access, the organization aims to attract more farmers, although this remains challenging. While there were around 550 farmers present, most of them were from France. Some manufacturers and startups therefore choose not to bring a field robot or vehicle to Toulouse. However, this did not apply to H2L Robotics and Pixelfarming Robotics, who brought their Selector180 tulip selection robot and Robot One weeding robot, respectively. Aigro demonstrated the compact Up field robot.

Major names now present

So far, suppliers and manufacturers of agricultural machinery and tractors have been absent as exhibitors. In 2023, only Exxact Robotics was present. This year, however, there was a clear change, with stands from Bosch, Continental, LINAK, Maschio Gaspardo, New Holland, and Yanmar, among others. New Holland was present together with Stout, an American manufacturer of smart hoeing machines in which parent company CNH Industrial has a 10% stake. It was notable, however, that Kuhn, which unveiled the robot tractor Karl at Agritechnica, was absent.

The Crover prototype is powered via cable and remotely controlled. By 2025, Crover aims for full autonomy. - Photo: Geert Hekkert

The Scottish Crover robot monitors and manages grain quality in storage silos. Two augers driven by electric motors propel the vehicle. The auger drive ensures thorough mixing of the grain, which prevents crust formation on the surface. Sometimes, the 30-kilogram robot stops and inserts a probe into the grain. Subsequently, the vehicle analyzes the moisture content and temperature at a depth of 1.5 meters. Ready for practical use in 2025, it will be available for purchase starting at €14,000.

Odd.Bot-Maverick A computer model of the Maverick weeding robot, set to enter the market in 2024 for a price ranging from approximately €90,000 to €120,000. - Photos: Odd.Bot

The Dutch company Odd.Bot not only showcased the production-ready version of its robot arm for weed control but also announced the weed robot Maverick. Maverick will be available this year in limited quantities for €90,000 to €120,000, depending on the configuration. The track width is adjustable from 1.50 to 2.25 meters as standard and can be increased if desired. The vehicle navigates without GPS by following rows or ridges. The robot arm is also compatible with third-party vehicles and costs approximately €45,000 each.

Maschio Gaspardo expects to sell approximately 5 ICARDO X4 robots in Italy and France in 2024. In 2023, 5 units were already in operation. - Photo: Maschio Gaspardo

At the end of 2022, Maschio Gaspardo acquired a majority stake in the Italian startup Free Green Nature. The Icaro X4 from that company combats true (Powdery Mildew) and false (Downy Mildew) mildew in vineyards using UV-C light. A small Kohler 2-cylinder diesel engine powers the robot. According to the manufacturer, a robot can keep 10 to 15 hectares free from mold, potentially reducing the use of fungicides by 50 to 70 percent. However, this comes with a price tag of approximately €115,000.

Startup Robotic Perception is developing a robotic pruning solution for orchards and vineyards. - Photos: René Koerhuis

Startup Robotic Perception from Israel developed an autonomous orchard sprayer as part of the agROBOfood project, aiming to reduce drift by 25 percent. They also plan to launch robotic pruning by the end of this year. A trailer equipped with a total of 6 to 8 Chinese robot arms, fitted with cameras and pruning shears, should be able to automatically prune 2 hectares of orchard or vineyard. However, the company still has some work to do because during the demos, the pruning shears often missed their target.

The Yanmar YV01 was on display and demo at the recent World FIRA in Auzeville-Tolosane near Toulouse, France. - Photos: René Koerhuis

Yanmar demonstrated its YV01 spray robot, which travels over a row of grapevines to apply crop protection products. Contrary to expectations, the vehicle is neither electrically nor Yanmar diesel-powered. The required battery pack would be too heavy, and Yanmar engines too large and powerful. Therefore, it is equipped with a 25 hp air-cooled Honda gasoline engine. Additionally, a weeding bar from YTAgri is now available. The YV01 is available for purchase starting at €110,000.

Slovenian robot manufacturer PeK Automotive introduces its new field robot model Agilehelper. - Photos: René Koerhuis

Slovenian robot manufacturer PeK Automotive, manufacturer of the multifunctional vineyard and orchard field robot Slopehelper, chose this year’s World FIRA to introduce its new field robot model Agilehelper. Agilehelper in fact is a ‘smaller’ version of the Slopehelper. Smaller in relation to its dimensions, Agilehelper measures 3.96 meters long, 1.25 meters wide and 1.76 metres high, but also in relation to its battery package. 

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René Koerhuis Precision Farming Specialist