Demystifying robots for use by everyday farmers

Ole Green, CEO of Danish robotics company AgroIntelli, aims to demystify robots for use by everyday farmers.

CEO of Danish robotics company AgroIntelli and Professor at Aarhus University, Ole Green, feels that the single furrow horse plough still is one of the greatest agricultural machines ever invented. He explains why and tells about his mission to demystify robots for use by everyday farmers.

Why are former inventions that important to you?

First of all because I don’t want us to reinvent concepts and solutions that were already invented before. That’s also why we take our international AgroIntelli crew to an agricultural museum twice a year, because I don’t want them to ‘reinvent the wheel’. And secondly because the single furrow horse plough meant great progress in mechanisation and it did not compact nor erode the soil. The operators were able to feel, see and smell the soil and evaluate the site specific performed tillage as they were walking just behind the implement. Something that is very difficult with modern day equipment as the operator is typically sitting in an air-conditioned suspended cabin in the front of the implement.

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Ole Green: “Educating farmers and operators is essential to guarantee the success and endurance of robots and autonomous vehicles in farming.” – Photo: AgroIntelli


So how does the Robotti robot sense?

Robotti is designed to be deployed with known standard implements that are upgraded with sensing systems that replace the skilled farmers ability to evaluate the performed work. For a weeding operation, cameras in the front of Robotti can evaluate the site specific weed intensity and compare this with the effect of the implement by evaluating the treated area by rearward facing cameras. During the operation pull force and wheel slip is being measured and evaluated to ensure that Robotti is functioning properly and in good soil conditions. At the same time, Robotti is able to store these data about weed intensity, crop emergence and growth status. The data is continuously uploaded to the cloud and can be shared with any farm management system through standard data exchange formats.

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Robotti is a diesel-hydraulics autonomous tool carrier that can complete operations such as weeding or spraying without a driver. – Photo: Matthijs Verhagen


What are the main growth/adoption barriers for farming robots?

The farmers and operators themselves, because they don’t know how to deal with robots yet. Educating farmers and operators is essential to guarantee the success and endurance of robots and autonomous vehicles in farming. Most of all, it shouldn’t be an additional ‘problem’ to the farmer’s daily operation and we have to teach him to deal with situations like unplanned stops and especially the restart after such a stop. We try to accelerate and simplify adoption by making our robots work with current day implements to make them not that ‘scary’ to farmers and operators as many other robots.

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What will be the next innovation in autonomous vehicles?

I believe that will be sensor fusion. Currently, we use RTK-gps for basic navigation as it is extremely robust and it has proven functionality. Yes, there’s alternatives like LiDAR, but those currently have disadvantages in farming because of the varying conditions like dust and moving crops. Nonetheless, we prefer cameras and sensors from the automotive industry because of their more interesting pricing and robustness. Sensors that will become available as accessories for better or additional functionalities like plant and leaf counting as well as pest detection. These will fuse multiple applications together.

Ole Green to speak at Global Future Farming Summit.

Read the full interview with Ole Green in the digital magazine of Future Farming (you can register for free).