Kristen Obeid, OMAFRA Weed Management Specialist – Horticulture
What a challenging-few-years the agriculture sector and the world has had. But challenges pave the way for opportunities. And there are opportunities abound in the AgRobotics space. What is the problem you are trying to solve? Likely, there is a company somewhere in the world trying to solve it.
Since 2021, an AgRobotics Working Group comprised of more than 50 people (OMAFRA staff, Haggerty Creek AgRobotics, growers, grower associations, agri-business, universities and colleges, federal and municipal governments and technology companies) have been meeting weekly. The group brainstorms about available and future technologies, builds networks and collaborations, conducts on-farm demonstrations, and builds cross-functional teams to apply for funding opportunities in hopes of ground truthing these technologies in Ontario production systems. The technology companies are impressed with the diversity of production, government support and research capabilities in Ontario.
In 2021, Haggerty Creek AgRobotics Division along with OMAFRA and grower associations conducted six demonstrations with 3 different robots in Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, peppers, onions, carrots, celery, strawberries and haskaps. The robots included:
- Naïo Oz is an inter-row weeding robot. Capable of weeding through standing crops in row widths of 30” or more. Guided by RTK GPS. It can attach any implement, such as a 1-row seeder, hooded sprayer, wagon to haul loads, etc. video of two robots in a celery field
- Naïo Dino is an inter-row weeding robot. Capable of weeding in any row spacing (adjustable tool bar) of a standing crop. Guided by RTK GPS.
- Korechi RoamIO is an autonomous platform for soil sensing, mowing, cultivating, the limit is your imagination.
Projects currently underway in 2022 include five different robots in various crops and locations performing numerous tasks: seeding, weeding (active and passive), mowing, soil sampling and analysis.
Seeding and inter and intra-row weeding robot. It knows exactly where the seed is planted enabling it to weed as close to the plant as possible. Guided by RTK GPS. Developed on sugar beets, canola, onions and spinach in Denmark. Currently, being tested in sugar beets in Ontario. There are over 100 active units in Europe. It is solar powered with a backup battery and can cover 12 – 15 acres/day.
The Naïo Dino is capable of weeding in any row spacing. The adjustable tool bar allows it to weed as close to the crop as possible. Guided by RTK GPS. Currently, being tested in carrots and celery in Ontario. There are over 150 active units worldwide. It is battery powered with autonomy of 8-10-hours and can cover approximately 10 acres/day.
Nexus Goat https://nexusrobotics.ca
The Nexus Goat navigates and removes weeds autonomously (picks the weeds out). It uses cameras and a neural network to differentiate between weeds and crops. Guided by RTK GPS. Currently, 2 robots are being tested in carrots in 2 locations in Ontario. It is a hybrid model (battery and diesel fuel) with 24-hour autonomy. The speed depends on how weedy the field is.
Korechi RoamIO HCT https://korechi.com
The Korechi RoamIO HCT is a custom autonomous platform made in Ontario with multiple uses. It integrates soil scanning and sensing equipment with numerous tools such as cultivators, seeders and mowers. Currently, being used for soil optics sensing and a cover crop row mower project.
Raven OMNiPOWER https://ravenprecision.com
OMNiPOWER is an autonomous power platform that easily interchanges farm implements. It is controlled remotely from a tablet. No driver necessary. Currently, being use for custom fertilizer applications.
The AgRobotics Working Group continues to submit funding applications to test other technologies in many different production systems. We encourage anyone with an interest in automation to participate in the working group.
Come out to any of the demonstration days planned so far:
- June 28: 2 pm – 4pm
Robotic Row Mow Field Day a Living Laboratories Initiative
11234 Cedar Hedge Line, Dresden, ON
No registration required.
2. July 6: 9 am – 12 noon
AgRobotics Field Demonstration
Start at: University of Guelph Muck Crops Research Station
1125 Woodchoppers Lane, Kettleby, ON L0G 1J0
In-field and in-person only demonstration of the Naïo Dino and Nexus La Chèvre
No registration required.
3. July 13: 9 am – 4 pm
AgRobotics Field Tour
Start at: Haggerty Creek Ltd. (Haggerty AgRobotics Company)
7708 Bentpath Line, Bothwell, ON N0P 1C0
Register for virtual or in person participation and see the FarmDroid, Korechi RoamIO, Naïo Oz, Nexus La Chèvre and Raven OMNIPower.
We’re a long way off from widespread use of robotics in field and horticulture crops because there’s so much to learn. But we are learning together and are asking the tough questions with our current projects:
Does the robot do what it is supposed to do?
How much does it cost? What is the return on investment?
What are the benefits? Labour savings? Environmental? Carbon footprint? Reduced inputs?
Can the robot (s) be integrated into our current production systems?
What is the technical skill set required to operate the robotics?
As you can see, there are a lot of questions to be answered before widespread adoption on Ontario farms. But this is the start of something big. Much bigger than anyone can predict. It is the future and holds promise to enhance food security, environmental sustainability and solve the critical problems faced by agriculture today and those of tomorrow.