WUR explores field robots and driverless tractors

18-05 | |
The AgXeed AgBot. - Photo: WUR
The AgXeed AgBot. - Photo: WUR

Wageningen University will explore how field robots and driverless tractors fit in with arable farming of the future.

For its Farm of the Future project, Wageningen University & Research (WUR) in the Netherlands devised a program with so-called innovation vouchers. Agtech companies from all over the world could submit applications to have their technology tested by Wageningen experts. According to WUR, there is huge interest in its innovation vouchers.

Also read: Farm of the Future: Alternative to monoculture farming

Autonomous field robots and tractors

Over fifty companies from the Netherlands and abroad have submitted applications in recent months to test an innovation or new technology that can contribute to circular agriculture. Four applicants – all developing autonomous field robots and tractors – have now received a voucher. This will allow them to use the facilities, expertise and support of Farm of the Future.

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The voucher scheme is an initiative of “Kansen voor West”, a partnership between the Dutch provinces of Flevoland, North and South Holland and Utrecht. Together they are making € 1,470,000 of European EFRO funds available this year. All four of the newly awarded projects involve autonomous robots and tractors that can be used for weed control, potato storage and other activities.

The Farm of the Future research project works with farmers and other partners to find viable solutions to the challenges facing arable farming. The use of mixed crops in combination with fixed row paths, for example, strengthens biodiversity and combats soil compaction.

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The autonomous Agbot runs on tracks and therefore achieves very low soil pressure. - Photo: WUR

The autonomous Agbot runs on tracks and therefore achieves very low soil pressure. – Photo: WUR

AgXeed: Autonomous tractor on caterpillar tracks

One of the companies that received a research voucher is the Dutch company AgXeed. Their autonomous Agbot runs on tracks and therefore achieves very low soil pressure. “By working autonomously, the AgBot can perform operations very efficiently and heavy combination implements are no longer needed. During the research at Farm of the Future we want to show that the Agbot fits in perfectly with the arable farming of the future and leads to better crop results,” says Rienk Landstra of AgXeed.

Also read: Claas and AgXeed collaborate on field robots

Still room for new applications

“The applications submitted are hugely diverse, both in terms of innovation content and in terms of the topics they focus on and the sectors and countries from which people report to us,” says Marleen Riemens of Wageningen University & Research. More applications will be honored in the short term, but there is also room for new applications within the budget. “It would be great if we could get through our available budget of almost 1.5 million euros already in the first half of the year.”

The voucher scheme includes three types of vouchers:

  1. The feasibility voucher is used for the use of experts and the use of facilities of Farm of the Future to test the technical and economic feasibility of an innovation idea.
  2. The R&D voucher will be used for external costs incurred by the applicant to develop and test a prototype in a laboratory and field environment.
  3. The pilot voucher is used for the use of experts and the use of facilities of Farm of the Future to test and validate an innovation in practice.
Claver
Hugo Claver Web editor for Future Farming