Milking cows, harvesting ground crops and mucking out sheds: agriculture often involves repetitive and physically strenuous tasks. Costs and time pressure are also constantly on the rise. Used in farming, automated robot solutions are flexible, cost-efficient and time-saving. To relieve the workload on staff, robots can assist with sowing seeds or even perform this task on their own, or alternatively harvest ground crops or weed fields. The main robot applications in livestock farming are for milking and feeding cows or mucking out sheds.
Sheds are structured, non-moving and known environments. However, when used for other purposes, agricultural robots have to contend with undefined dynamic environments. People also have to be able to work with these systems and operate them easily. Additionally, hardware needs to be particularly robust as far as external influences such as dirt or fluctuating temperatures are concerned.
Expertise and sample projects
Fraunhofer IPA has successfully transferred a number of methods and technologies, e.g. object recognition and positioning technologies, from industrial robotics to farming applications. Researchers use their experience to systematically develop and construct innovative robot systems.
As part of the Effirob study carried out at Fraunhofer IPA, a harvesting robot has been developed to extend existing harvesting machines. A robot arm uncovers the fruit and then grips and harvests it. A particular focus was placed on handling fruit gently to prevent it from becoming damaged. Another concept in the Effirob study involves a robot for a milking carousel, which detects the cows’ teats, cleans the teat cups and identifies their position quickly and accurately. In both studies, the economic analysis was positive. The project RotaBot demonstrated this in practice. The project takes some of the aspects of the milking robot concept and transfers them to a product.
AgriApps is a further agricultural project concerned with automating mechanical weed control. To some extent, the idea behind the application came from the EFFIROB concept for harvesting ground crops.
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