Agricultural Robotics

The aim of the project is to design and develop a semi-autonomous, mobile system that is capable of harvesting fruit independent of human interaction. While robotic systems are currently used mainly in greenhouses, the target scenario of the proposed project is the open field, taking into account the typical environmental influences associated with it. Taking into account a wide range of possible applications and a low investment volume, the aim is to develop a system that can also be operated economically by smaller farms. An adaptability of the work performance to the farm size-dependent demand is then given by the number of small systems working in parallel.

Duration: 01.10.2021 till 30.09.2024
Donee: German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence GmbH
Sponsor: Bundesministerium für Ernährung und Landwirtschaft
Bundesanstalt für Landwirtschaft und Ernährung
Grant number: The project is supported by funds of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) based on a decision of the Parliament of the Federal Republic of Germany. The Federal Office for Agriculture and Food (BLE) provides coordinating support for artificial intelligence (AI) in agriculture as funding organisation, grant number 28DK103A20.
Partner: HAW Hamburg – FTZ Smart Systems
Othmerding Maschinenbau GmbH & Co.KG
Erdbeerhof Glantz (associated partner)
Application Field: Agricultural Robotics
Related Robots: ARTEMIS
DLR SpaceBot Cup 2013 Rover

Project details

The system developed in RoLand is intended to help advance automation in organic farming. The ability to operate in the open field offers a more natural way of growing fruit in the long term. Ancillary systems such as UV lamps, mechanical "weed pickers", or a pest collector offer further opportunities to reduce the use of pesticides and herbicides, further increasing the ecological benefits.

Increased automation of agriculture can lead to improved food security. Appropriately advanced automated harvesting technology can mitigate or compensate for short-term absences of human harvesters, helping to avoid leaving ripe fruit in the field. Harvesting becomes less dependent on personnel, weather or time of day. Furthermore, automation can help to maintain Germany as a cultivation location for many types of fruit and vegetables in the long term and strengthen regional food cultivation. By avoiding long transport routes, the CO2 balance of our food can be improved.

By planting strawberries as naturally as possible in the soil in the open field, an ecological end product can be achieved. In this project, therefore, a system is to be explicitly developed which, despite the difficult conditions, is capable of being used in existing agricultural facilities or fields in addition to humans. The absence of harvest workers can be compensated for by the robotic system continuing to harvest the crop at night in addition to the day shift. Nighttime use also offers other advantages: The fruit would be harvested at cooler temperatures and thus suffer less damage, the artificial lighting required at night to detect the fruit provides more stable conditions for the image-processing algorithms, and further, a fresh batch of fruit would be ready for delivery to retail stands by early morning.

The robot control system is expected to be based on open source software such as the ROS framework or the Rock framework, which was significantly developed at DFKI. The interfaces to the system will thus be open and can also be reused within the GAIA-X ecosystem. The connection to GAIA-X is not the main goal of the project, but the developments should take place with a view to future connection, so that no development dead ends are taken here.
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last updated 21.08.2023
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