AgroBot is a sub-project of the SmartBot initiative dedicated to the development of basic technologies for constructing multiple agriculture robotic prototypes with different applications.
The introduction of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in the EU, along with a declining number of farmers and a growing desire for sustainably produced food are factors prompting great change in the agricultural sector. Efficiencies of scale seem to be inappropriate and are actually prohibited in this scenario since the use of more, larger or heavier machinery leads to soil erosion and other irreparable damage to the landscape.
With new breakthroughs in the sensor and robot technologies being developed as part of the AgroBot program, leading agricultural machine companies may be able to gain a competitive advantage in sustainable capacity building. Five models of sensor robot are currently being tested: a scarecrow robot, an intelligent weed removal robot, a potato harvesting robot, a feed robot, and a beet-harvesting robot. All of these prototypes are autonomous or require minor human supervision.
Developing partners in the AgroBot project come from both the industry and academic sectors. The academic partners focus on the algorithms and software structure needed to realize cooperation between the robots and the data in order to perform complex tasks while the industrial partners contribute their extensive knowledge of industrial production systems and environments.
This combination of research and business partners has resulted in the realization of several prototypes and virtual simulations that prove the feasibility of the AgroBot concepts in real production environments.
Lead partners on the industrial side include the agricultural machinery companies Grimme, Strautmann and Amazone-Werke, and the developer and global supplier of 3D motion tracking products, Xsens.
Lead partners on the institutional side include – the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI), the Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science at Osnabruck University and University of Groningen, among others.
AgroBot is just one component of SmartBot, an innovative cross-border project involving twenty-four partners collaborating in Germany and the Netherlands. Together they are creating a global knowledge hot spot in the field of robotic sensing. At this time, SmartBot comprises two areas of research and development in addition to AgroBot:
Supported by the European Union’s INTERREG IVA Structural Funds program and a number of regional governmental funds, SmartBot is being acclaimed as a new way for key sectors to share individual expertise and knowledge bases in an effort to build new capacities and possibilities in an era of economic instability.