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New agricultural robots and the challenges of a sector

As the need for task automation increases exponentially in the agricultural world, FIRA must support this change in progress.

This 4th edition of FIRA, the International Forum of Agricultural Robotics, was marked by a growing participation not only from manufacturers in the sector but also from farmers, seed companies, agro-food corporations and journalists.

By drawing together more than 850 participants from 42 different countries, and generating over 1,300 views on YouTube, FIRA has made Toulouse the world capital of agricultural robotics. With the attendance of some twenty world experts and the exhibition of dozens of robots and equipment, the event is now an unmissable meeting point for the players of a sector that is significantly developing.

Agricultural robotics: A global challenge
This was the first time that the five continents were represented at FIRA: 42 nationalities, including a Nigerian delegation, as well as participants from Australia, the United States, Israel, India and Nepal.

Agricultural robotics therefore caters a global market with characteristics related to the soils, climates and crops that are specific to certain regions of the world, as reported at the round table “Agricultural robotics storms global market” by the participants Suresh Murugesan (TAFE, India), Prof. Dr.-Ing.Peter Pickel (John Deere, Germany), Christian Kirchhoff (K.U.L.T, Germany), Dr. Rohan Rainbow (Agtechcentric, Australia) and José Miguel Arizabalo Barra, (Hortifrut, Chile).

Manufacturers present new agricultural robots
FIRA is currently the only event in the world where so many agricultural robots are presented in one same place.

Here are the new features presented this year:

  • Tibot Technologies: the Spoutnic and Spoutnic NAV robots limit the drudgery of work for the poultry farmers while improving the profitability of their farm and stimulating animal welfare.
  • Faromatics: ChickenBoy, the world-wide first ceiling suspended robot that monitors animal welfare and helps increase farm productivity.
  • Rhoban System: E-tract is an autonomous electric tractor that can operate with the electric tactor Tract'elec, thus providing a smooth transition from today’s conventional tractor to the autonomous robot of tomorrow.
  • Naio Technologies: presentation of its complete solution for precise weed control using its Dino robot. By developing this crop-mapping solution and combining it with an electric in-row tool, Naïo Technologies is ushering in a new era for automated mechanical weeding.
  • VitiBot: after the working platform, VitiBot expands its range of electric and connected tools. Currently being tested with the Champagne Committee, the contained sprayer and recycling system is eagerly awaited.
  • Sitia: Trektor is the first versatile and hybrid agricultural robot in France. Its design allows, with the same product, to address different markets of viticulture, market-gardening, open-field vegetable crop and arboriculture.
  • Dussau Distribution: Sentinel, the first bedding robot endowed with Artificial Intelligence. Its functions make it the eyes and arms of the farmer who remains the only decision-maker and mastermind.

Professions and regulations are changing
In this context of increasing demands, FIRA must initiate networking between all the players in the sector to address two key issues: how to support farmers and their advisors when they first use these autonomous machines on their farms? What are the regulatory evolutions regarding agricultural robotics?

Four sector workshops were therefore organized to face the challenges of different types of production such as livestock, fruit and vegetables, field crops and viticulture, and thereby introducing farmers to the state of the art of robotics for their own needs.

This was followed by a training workshop “Agricultural robotics: my job is changing. What consequences and which supports?” organized by the Chamber of Agriculture of Occitanie and intended for farmers and advisors. Farmers were then invited to express their interest in hosting experiments within their farms.

Finally, the much anticipated round table presenting “Regulatory frameworks and standards for Agricultural Robots: where do we stand in Europe and in the world?” was held with the participation of the main global stakeholders in this major issue, including the AEM (American association of the agricultural equipment manufacturers), CEMA (its counterpart at European level), the European Commission and the OECD.

Robagri scientific symposium
The first scientific workshop organized by the Robagri association took place the second day and brought together an audience of some 200 people around topics on the reliability and safety of agricultural robots.

This event within the event was an opportunity to share the latest scientific advances of agricultural robotics on the three following items: Safety and control, Supervision and decision-making for mobile robots, Interaction between mobile robots and tools.

FIRA and GOFAR 2020
The organizers of the event concluded the conference day with the announcement of the actions planned for 2020 by the GOFAR Association which now implements the FIRA:

  • FIRA 2020 will be held again in Toulouse, on 8 and 9 December 2020
  • A strong partnership with SIMA 2020, during which GOFAR will organize a series of conferences and workshops as well as the exhibition of agricultural robots,
  • A web platform enhanced with advanced contents on agricultural robotics (articles, videos, testimonies ...)
  • Partnerships with local national and international organizations to promote agricultural robotics.

All the conferences and round tables - broadcast live from the event - are already online on FIRA’s Youtube channel, and will soon be available in full in French.

The presentations are also available on Slideshare.

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