Process and control today | Driving the transition to agriculture 4.0: robotics to keep agriculture efficient and productive

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If the world’s population reaches ten billion by 2050, farmers around the world will need to increase their yields by 70%. With resource depletion, a growing climate change crisis, and labor shortages, many people wonder if we are equipped to handle future food production. This is Martin Leahy, sales engineer at precision drive specialist maxon UK and Ireland, discusses some of the main challenges facing modern agriculture and explores how technological advancements can help solve them.

Agriculture 4.0 represents the anticipated changes in agriculture due to the discovery of new technologies. This includes the introduction of artificial intelligence (AI) to make planning decisions and powering autonomous machines to perform harvesting, weeding, and distribution of chemical fertilizers.

Farmers are often seen as risk averse and reluctant to invest in new, capital-intensive technologies. However, agriculture has become the third largest market for professional robotics. Let’s take a look at some of the new technologies in question and how they can be used to drive the next agricultural revolution.

Automatic guided vehicles

Introduced in the 1950s, Autonomous Guided Vehicles (AGVs) have been used in logistics and industry to tow raw materials around a given space without human intervention. Generally, AGVs use a wire guidance system by following a traced path of wires emitting waves into the ground, much like a railroad track.

The problem is that wire guide systems are very rigid, expensive and complex to install. The alternative opti-guidance system – where AGVs use cameras to follow a fixed painted line – may be the most cost effective solution.

While AGVs can detect obstacles in their race path, they cannot yet operate around them. Therefore, AGVs are best used in indoor or vertical straight-line agriculture and will save time and labor costs associated with performing manual labor such as sowing and fertilizing.

Autonomous mobile robots in field robotics

Autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) are more flexible and do not require the high infrastructure costs associated with AGVs. In a LIDAR or laser guidance system, AMRs are equipped with rotating lasers and move through an array of reflectors integrated into the environment. Alternatively, farmers can use geo-guidance systems to move their AMR, whereby the robot can calculate its path using a pre-programmed map of a facility or field.

LIDAR systems are the most reliable technology for AMRs, but they require a certain level of infrastructure development. Geo-guidance systems, although less robust, are quick to set up and easy to reprogram.

AMRs, using brushless DC motors, are used in field robotics to perform previously mundane and time-consuming tasks such as planting, spraying, harvesting, and soil sampling. Because automated processes are highly repeatable and efficient over time, AMRs will ensure better job accuracy, improved productivity and less need for manual labor.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and AgriDrones

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and drones hold great promise in agriculture for providing aerial imagery and real-time data on crop conditions. By using drones to generate aerial imagery and real-time crop health data, it has the potential to reduce the consumption of chemicals and water. Selective spraying techniques instead of blanket spraying have not only economic benefits, but also environmental benefits.

Demonstrating the potential of drones, the Hill Farmers Association in Ireland uses drones to perform counts, monitor herd integrity and guard sheep. This led the association to demand that drones be included in the Targeted Agriculture Modernization Fund (TAM), which will give farmers 40% of the cost of purchasing drones.

For many years, maxon has worked hard to meet the drive requirements of drones, supplying payload mechanisms, drone motors, control surface actuators, gearboxes and even propellers.

At a time when farmers face labor shortages, a temperamental climate, fewer young hires and an ever-growing population, maxon is here to help provide the technology needed to meet these challenges. head on.

To learn more about the use of maxon technology in agriculture, contact us in the UK on +44 (0) 1118 973 337 or visit our website at https: // www .maxongroup.co.uk / maxon / view / news / Next-Generation-Agriculture.

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