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Yanmar's agri-robotics for a sustainable future farming

Yanmar R&D Europe (YRE) is working with partners on a variety of field-based studies to bring added value to the agriculture industry and attract a new generation of workers to the land

These include the two-year US$4.37mn ‘SMASH’ project that is being carried out in cooperation with 10 technology partners to develop a mobile agricultural ‘eco-system’ to monitor, analyse and manage agricultural crops. Yanmar R&D Europe is working with partners to test modular robotic agricultural technologies.

Agriculture in the future will see increasing use of scientifically precise farming techniques, where automated ‘agro-bots’ monitor, treat and work the land, using advanced technology designed to help maximise yields and minimise disease.

Manuel Pencelli, YRE’s modelling and control engineer, said, “SMASH is not a single machine, but a series of different devices including a robot, base station, drones and field sensors that together provide vital information to help farmers. A farmer could programme the task that he wants SMASH to carry out, and while he is involved in other activities, this machine could move autonomously, monitoring crops, detecting and treating diseases, and saving the farmer or his workers significant time out in the fields manually checking crops.”

SMASH consists of a mobile base, a robotic arm featuring manipulators and vision systems, a drone and an ancillary ground station. The system is designed to function across a range of precision agriculture technologies, offering specific insights on geomatics, robotics, data mining, machine learning etc, while taking into account the environmental and social issues facing farmers.

According to Pencelli, “In addition to all the functions that can be performed by the robotic arm, we also have some attachments that can be mounted on the back of the vehicle for mechanical weeding, or working the soil, as it moves. This work can be done simultaneously, together with the monitoring and detection.”

YRE has joined forces with Florence University’s Agriculture Department in order to further advance research activities in the field. For the SMASH project, the university’s Professor Marco Vieri believed that a holistic approach to research was needed, alongside enabling the latest technologies.