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Project description

The project develops a lightweight, robust, flexible, autonomous machine concept and demonstrates its potential and functionality in realistic, but safe demonstration fields (Autonomous Hectares) in Denmark, UK and Finland.

Small machinery
The potential of the concept is that arable farming can be carried out with significantly smaller machines than currently, where the tendency for years has been the opposite; towards larger and larger machines in the fields, resulting in soil compaction, crop damage, excess energy use etc.

The machine concept of this project relies heavily on robotics and ICT, e.g. for cross-platform route and action plan generation and for visualization, verification and documentation of the agricultural operations. The impact of the project will be a significant step towards realistic possibility for farmers to use robotics and ICT for a more environmental-friendly, sustainable production with improved economy and increased product quality.

Impact on sustainable use of lowlands
The proposed integrated ICT and robotics concept will in itself reduce the direct energy consumption as a result of the reduced machine weight and optimised driving patterns and logistics. It will reduce soil compaction significantly, which will increase yield and reduce the need for soil tillage which are the most energy demanding field operations. Also, the smaller and slower moving machinery will be more receptive to needs of nature, particularly the wildlife.

In this project, where the agronomic focus is on harvest and collection of grass for bio-production, there are additional impacts: 1) Expected increase in grassland lifetime from 2-3 years to at least 8 years, reducing soil tillage needs even more than other crops, 2) possibility to harvest sensitive low-land areas, thereby removing nutrients caught by the plants from otherwise lost drain water, 3) ensuring stable biomass flow for energy production and possibility to produce organic fertilizer of the digested biomass.

European value
The dissemination and application of research and development from GrassBots will enhance the role and perception of machinery and automated equipment for bio-production systems in Europe and advance the related industrial as well as agricultural and environmental politics.

Besides the direct economic benefits for the bio-production sectors, this could result in an adapted EU-agricultural / EU-rural policy design, new and specific programs for enhancing the technical progress for biosystem production, supporting environmental friendly production.

It could also convince the manufacturing industry in Europe to take up the challenge and become leading in automation or autonomous systems for biosystem production or autonomous outdoor systems in general.