Eight million Euro project aims to bring robotic farming to Europe2 Apr 2021
In the face of continued labor shortages on farms throughout the EU, robots have ratcheted their way up in terms of importance for farmers, but these automatic, mechanical solutions have not yet become a mainstream solution to replace this shortage. To help speed up the adoption of robots in the agriculture sector, the EU government invested €7.9 million Euros into Robs4Crops, a project that hopes to bring productivity, efficiency and environmental sustainability to farms.
The focus of this project is replacing the hard-to-find farm labor that has become even more difficult to secure amid the pandemic that has stymied the flow of seasonal farmhands across borders. This lack of help has led to difficulties in planting and harvesting, which has reached such a degree that farmers have had to leave their produce to rot in the fields or have been unable to sew a sufficient number of crops for a successful harvest.
Robots, according to Robs4Crops offer an alternative to human labor to allow for a safe and cost-effective approach to tasks that are normally mundane and routine. To prove this claim, this project is testing out fully autonomous farming systems in the Netherlands, France, Spain and Greece.
The test systems will include three elements: smart implements, which are sprayer implements that detect and spot target weeds; autonomous vehicles that sense the environment and navigate using the smart elements; and the farming controller, which is planning and scheduling software that uses Digital Twin technology. In a price-sensitive move, existing agricultural machinery that is already on test sites will simply be upgraded to function in conjunction with the agricultural robots.
As the project focuses on repetitive and demanding operations in the fields, it is not only eliminating the need for farmers to engage in these routine tasks, but it brings an element of environmental friendliness to the equation. Due to the ability of smart implement to target and spray individual weeds, this autonomous farming equipment reduces the need to plow and thereby lowers the diesel emissions from tractors continually tilling soils. It also decreases the amount of weed spray needed on fields and does not blanket spray and damage plants and micro-organisms in the soil.
Robs4Crops is not the only initiative working to introduce artificial intelligence and robotics into the agriculture sector. Facebook’s See & Spray robots employ a high-resolution camera that has been fed with thousands of images of weeds and crops in order to help the AI establish a difference between the two types of greenery.
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