Precision farming is an approach to agriculture that utilizes technology to drive efficiency, sustainability and increased output in farming while reducing costs and minimizing ecological footprints. It represents substantial progress in the agriculture sector; a vital industry tasked with meeting the world’s growing demands while addressing environmental and economic challenges.
Agricobots is at the forefront of smart farming, playing a dedicated role in this transformation. Their core mission is to revolutionize the approach to nurturing vineyards and similar crops and granting cultivators the ability to seamlessly integrate state-of-the-art robotics into their agricultural practices.
“We’re reimagining the entire landscape of agricultural processes through ingenious robotic systems”, says Alessandro Deodati. “Our sights are set on perfecting operations that matter the most, starting with the art of precision spraying”
Agricobots’ project aims to develop a specialized vineyard spraying robot known as VinyA st-4030. The robot is engineered to navigate demanding and dangerous landscapes characterized by steep slopes and potential slipperiness. In such environments, autonomous operations play a critical role, not only in optimizing processes and reducing costs but also in mitigating risks associated with tractor overturns and consequent human injuries.
Accelerating Autonomy Development with OutdoorNav
The primary challenge for the team at Agricobots was ensuring reliable navigation of their robotic system in outdoor environments, which are inherently varied. As a result, there was a need for an adaptive, automated driving control software. Clearpath’s OutdoorNav Autonomy Software was the perfect fit. OutdoorNav is a software platform designed for vehicle developers, OEMs and robotics researchers wanting to build off-road autonomous vehicles.
Agricobots integrated OutdoorNav into their system to achieve robust localization and precise movement. The comprehensive hardware and software packages provided by OutdoorNav significantly expedited their autonomy development. Traditionally, the team would have had to develop their own localization stack and select accurate sensors for the application, a process that would have been time consuming and involved rigorous testing.
The software collects sensor data from LiDAR, GNSS and wheel encoders to estimate the robot’s position and orientation. The system consists of two Duro GNSS receivers, one VLP-16 Velodyne LiDAR and wheel encoders. These components are mounted on a mechanical base: a 1.8-ton tracked vehicle capable of carrying up to 450 kg payloads in high slope conditions (up to 55°) which can enable the robot for several hours of spraying.
A custom software, augmented with the provided GPS kit, was developed to meet Agricobots’ specific requirements. A filtered point cloud was used to obtain information about the environment, which in turn adapted the team’s row-following algorithm. Accurate localization was crucial for achieving the roto-translational movements within the fields.
Watch this video of the VinyA st-4030 autonomously navigating through the field rows:
OutdoorNav has helped Agricobots to fast-track development of an early version of their own software by getting their machines up and running quickly.
“With the Clearpath software, it was really easy to develop the first beta version of our software. OutdoorNav simplified our step-in with the technology. The speed at which we could get the machines moving was impressive.” – Eng. Roberto Guida and Eng. Pietro Basile, Agricobots
Cultivating Smart Farming
Agricobots envisions a promising future for smart farming, and their collaboration with Clearpath’s OutdoorNav Autonomy Software offers great potential for forthcoming projects. Agricobots aims to expand the scope of their application, incorporating it into other robotic systems and platforms, enabling them to cater to various market demands.
If you would like to learn more about Agricobots, you can visit their website here.
You can learn more about our OutdoorNav Autonomy Software here.