With a budget of 7.9 million euros [9.4 million USD] funded by the European Union, the Robs4Crops project aims to accelerate the transition to robotics and automation in European agriculture. Led by the University and Research of Wageningen (WUR), the mission of Robs4Crops is to show that robotics brings precision and feasibility to daily and repetitive activities, therefore reducing the unpleasantness of certain tasks. The project started on January 1st, 2021 for a duration of 4 years.
According to the research team in Wageningen, the main challenge in European agriculture is the shortage of labor. This is even more striking in this time of pandemic where most European producers have reported a shortage of workers.
According to the university, agricultural robots are still used today as autonomous units rather than a complete robotic system, so they do not really have a place in current agricultural practices.
Robs4Crops will address the technical challenges by creating a robotic agricultural solution with intelligent tools, independent vehicles and an agricultural monitor, while reducing the initial investment by resetting the existing agricultural machinery and tractors.
The ultimate goal of the new flexible and modular systems is to reduce the dependency on labor, increase safety and reduce the carbon footprint of food production, by focusing primarily on the most demanding and repetitive field operations such as mechanical weeding and spraying against pests and diseases.
According to Frits van Evert, senior scientist of the research team in Wageningen and coordinator of the Robs4Crops project, “agriculture is very sensitive to the cost and scarcity of labor. It is therefore essential to make farming practices more efficient and sustainable. Robs4Crops is a game changer as it revives the European agricultural and food industry. It constitutes a kind of essential catalyst to accelerate the adoption of advanced robotics and automated technologies in agriculture.”