Into the field with plough and oxen: what was everyday life a few decades ago has now been replaced by modern agricultural machinery, even in remote regions. But a spectacular change is currently underway: Automated systems, robots, and drones are taking on more and more tasks and can already be used for many activities in agriculture. The extent to which the digital revolution in the field has already advanced is often underestimated. The Association of German Engineers (VDI), for example, assumes that the digital share of the added value in agricultural machinery is already significantly higher than in the automotive industry, for example.

Large, automated agricultural machines are just the beginning

GPS-controlled tractors, which independently drive even large fields with centimeter precision and map-based precision, for example during sowing or harvesting, are just the beginning. Their use also depends heavily on the region in question. They are primarily suitable for large, continuous, and evenly structured fields and arable land. Especially in southern Germany, however, a look at the field maps usually reveals a different picture: Agriculturally used areas are often relatively fragmented into many smaller fields. This often nullifies the advantages of automated agriculture with large machines and their use is unprofitable for cost reasons alone. Not to mention the generally difficult to cultivate areas, for example in mountainous regions, where large agricultural machines quickly reach their limits.

Small all-round robots for agriculture

In many areas of agriculture, smaller, more flexible and particularly innovative solutions are therefore in demand. Robots are playing an increasingly important role in this. Small, autonomous robots working in the field are now technically capable of performing even relatively complex tasks – such as sowing at the right place, even in terrain that is difficult to access. Sensors can ensure that the robots operate with the utmost caution and are used during all stages of the annual cycle. Plants that are already growing are thus optimally protected, which can help maximize harvesting and yields. Such systems can also be used in the future to control weeds and pests.

Challenges still exist

Despite all the enthusiasm, it must not be concealed that the use of robots in agriculture is still associated with challenges. Some of these are directly related to miniaturization: The smaller – and thus more flexible – the robot, the less capacity is available for transporting the required tools such as seeds, fertilizers or pesticides. Energy supply also requires sustainable solutions, because the machines, which are generally electrically powered, require autonomous, on-site charging facilities with the battery capacities that are common today.

We accompany you through the digital revolution in agriculture

In any case, the future of agriculture promises to be extremely exciting. The most likely scenario at present is that, depending on the nature of the land, large, automated agricultural machines will work together with whole swarms of smaller, highly innovative and autonomous robots. Our experts in the field of agricultural robotics will be pleased to inform you about the promising solutions that are already available today and how automated solutions in land management can be used in a targeted manner in combination with the appropriate control and IT systems.