Every month ProAgri reports on exciting new technology from around the world. These are some of this year’s highlights.

ExactShot applies fertiliser on the spot

The ExactShot planter/fertiliser applicator is one of the interesting new technologies John Deere revealed at CES 2023 — the leading tech-show held in Las Vegas. It applies starter fertiliser precisely to each individual seed. This will help farmers to be more productive, profitable, and sustainable.

ExactShot allows farmers to reduce the amount of starter fertiliser needed during planting by more than 60%. The technology uses sensors and robotics to place starter fertiliser precisely onto seeds as they are planted in the soil, rather than applying a continuous flow of fertiliser to the entire row of seeds.

ExactShot uses a sensor to register when each individual seed is in the process of going into the soil. As this occurs, a robot will spray only the amount of fertiliser needed, about 0,2ml, directly onto the seed at the exact moment as it goes into the soil.

Automated recharging solution for drones

The Skydock automated battery changing system for drones was developed in South Africa.

Drones can be very useful tools for farm security and crop protection, but short work times with manual intervention due to limited battery power is problematic. Dock-One is Skydock Systems’ automatic drone battery swapping and mission planning solution for DJI Mavic; with other drones to follow shortly.

Dock-one is an affordable drone battery swapping station developed in South Africa for the local and international market. It allows you to fly drone missions 24/7 in an automated fashion.

The challenge with staff needed for manual drone surveillance and manual battery swapping is solved by the Dock-One docking station.

Paired with the DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise drone, Dock-One allows you to automatically patrol day and night, and using the drone’s accessories such as the spotlight, or loudspeaker, nefarious activities can be stopped in its tracks.

Drones used for crop monitoring and protection in orchards will also be able to continue with their work non-stop.

Using the SkyDock/Flight Now system, you can create automated missions and monitor the drone from a centralised location over the internet.

The Dock-One solution comprises three components, the Dock-One docking station, FlytNow mission planning and remote-control software, and the DJI Mavic2 Enterprise drone. (For more information, visit https://skydock.systems/dockone/)

Killing weeds with laser technology becomes viable

The LaserWeeder destroys weeds with laser technology. An autonomous version was developed, but this 2023-version needing tractor power was welcomed by farmers in America, because it works faster.

Carbon Robotics™ uses artificial intelligence and laser technology for chemical-free, no-till weed control for speciality crops.

Their hi-resolution cameras feed imagery in real time to an onboard supercomputer that runs computer vision models to identify crops and weeds. High-powered lasers then kill weeds at the meristem — without harming valuable crops.

Laser weeding works day or night, in all weather conditions. It is a high-precision solution that improves crop yield and reduces overall costs associated with modern farming. Additionally, laser weeding creates sustainable paths to regenerative and organic farming.

The new LaserWeeder must be pulled by a row tractor. However, it has three times the lasers of the autonomous farming robot, and in one hour, it can cover about one hectare and can eliminate 200 000 weeds.

The Autonomous Weeders are now serving as demo units, but the LaserWeeder is commercially available. (Source: Freethink and Carbon Robotics)

Cows (and farmers) will love Exos, the Lely grass robot

The Exos, a fully autonomous vehicle for harvesting and feeding fresh grass, will be commercially available to Dutch dairy farms from the middle of next year.

It took around ten years to develop and was extensively tested on 13 Dutch farms.

The company is targeting farms with at least 150 cows and a minimum of 40 ha, but the autonomous vehicle has also been evaluated on farms with up to 350 cows.

The grass harvester operates at speeds of 3 to 4 km/h, and the working width is 2 m. The 12 m³ bunker holds about a tonne of fresh grass.

The vehicle can be programmed to deliver grass to the right, left, or both sides. A front safety bumper is part of the standard specs, as are front and rear safety cameras. Outdoor navigation is via GPS. Ultrasonic sensors take over when driving inside.

The Exos can also be used to apply liquid fertiliser. The ten nozzles are located directly behind the mowing unit, and the capacity of the fertiliser tank is 100 litres.

Electricity to power the vehicle is supplied by a 400-volt on-board battery. All four wheels have electric motors. (Source: Veehouderij Techniek)

Every potato sprouts: New planter takes the risk out of potato planting

Ropa from Germany has developed a machine for manually planting pre-sprouted potatoes. The planter, named Gecko, gently plants potatoes without breaking the sprouts.

After two years of field trials and use on farms, the desired advantages in yield and vegetation were achieved. The Gecko provides space for five pallets for efficient logistics of the planting material.

Two operators work on each planting row. They put the pre-sprouted potatoes lengthwise on the gentle and protective belts, which convey these without any further stress until the tubers are precisely deposited in the soil. This technology allows optimal planting of potatoes with up to 12 cm length at a driving speed of 3,5 km/h. The distance between plants can be variably adjusted in 16 stages and for rows, 75 cm apart, can be planted in one go.

See the Gecko in action: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B0v0IQf6LY0 (Source: World-Agritech.com)

Meet Smartcore, an autonomous soil sample collector

Collecting precise soil samples is essential for farmers because it determines the quantity and balance of nutrients available for crops and can determine crop yields.

Smartcore, an autonomous robot developed by a pair of Purdue University College of Engineering graduates, is designed to collect accurate, repeatable soil samples in fields and bring them to the edge of the field for shipment to the lab.

SmartCore uses a Bobcat skid steer chassis and navigates fields using boundary algorithms and a variety of obstacle detection sensors. It also is equipped with RTK GPS to ensure that soil samples are taken from the correct spot and can return every season within centimetres.

The largest and most common source of error in the soil testing process is with collecting the soil sample. Smartcore is unique in using a high-speed, self-cleaning hydraulic auger that collects soil to a precise depth.

In traditional sampling practices, the variance in depth and location can lead to a sampling error as high as 20%. Errors can cause farmers to spend more than necessary on fertiliser, or under-apply in certain areas. With Smartcore you can avoid these mistakes.

(Source: Purdue)