A co-ordinated “swarm” of up to a dozen mini corn-planting robots has been proposed by tractor maker Fendt as a key ingredient of future crop management precision.
The German “high technology” arm of Agco Corporation is a partner in a recently completed study into swarm robotics and plans to unveil a commercial-ready vehicle at the Agritechnica show in November.
Fendt’s Xaver system comprises six to 12 co-ordinated robots and a cloud platform to plan, monitor and accurately document the planting process.
At the planning stage, the optimal path for each unit and the time required is worked out; and if one unit breaks down, the work programme for the others will automatically be altered to compensate.
Satellite navigation and cloud data management allows operations to be conducted round the clock and Fendt engineers suggest accurate recording of the planting time and exact position of each seed makes it feasible to develop individual plant treatment techniques in future.
The 50kg robots are powered by a 400W electric motor and are said to consume about 70% less energy than conventional equipment to do the same work.
They are relatively simple to build, their small size and light weight has a negligible impact on the soil and also – together with a lack of complex sensors – should make servicing and maintenance relatively straightforward.
Fendt plans to supply trial systems to growers who successfully meet criteria ensuring they can make good use of them.