Sponsored By
Farm Progress

Robots invade Agritechnica

Slideshow: Autonomy was hot at Germany’s big farm show, and familiar companies got into the game.

Willie Vogt

November 28, 2023

9 Slides

Finding enough farm labor is a global problem that continues to spur equipment manufacturers to develop driverless technology. And Agritechnica showcased a range of such machines in November in Hanover, Germany.

But more than a lack of labor is pushing the industry toward an autonomous future. “Compaction will also be an issue,” said Rienk Landstra, co-founder of AgXeed, a Dutch startup that is marketing three autonomous platforms called AgBots. “Machines have gotten so big; it is becoming a problem.”

The AgXeed machines were popular at the event. Landstra joked that a visitor could have gone on a scavenger hunt to find the five machines on display, which were highlighting new technologies, including electric-powered implements.

Major equipment companies, including John Deere, Lemken, Kuhn and Krone, also showed off their autonomous machines. For Deere, the tillage-focused 8R was connected to a Lemken Rubin 12, expanding the versatility of that technology.

Lemken and Krone have created a new autonomous machine. Lemken, a veteran implement maker that is expanding in the United States, partnered with Krone, a company that has done major work with engine-powered machines. The result is a 230-hp, hybrid-powered autonomous machine that can pull a range of implements.

“This is a prototype,” said Hubertus Reinert of Lemken. “It is a diesel-electric hybrid that has put in several working hours in the field.”

Reinert said the machine is being targeted for the market in four or five years. The working protypes at the Lemken and Krone exhibits, however, helped to show what’s possible. The machine is designed to be towed to a field by a tractor and then turned loose to work.

“It can be towed at up to 40 kilometers per hour,” Reinert said, which is about 25 mph. He said the machine’s drive system is used during towing to provide steering.

A Krone representative added that when farmers are told the machine won’t be available for a few years, they are disappointed. “They want to order one now,” he said.

Diesel-hybrid approach

While the show offered a wide range of electric-only autonomous examples, diesel power is still the most common power source for larger machines. Many of the electric autonomous vehicles were more for specialty crops, where run times are shorter and swappable batteries are possible. For the larger machines, a diesel-hybrid approach is more common.

“With the hybrid, we can have options,” Landstra said, noting that the diesel engine could be powered by renewable diesel or even hydrogen to further improve its sustainability. And if battery power eventually reaches the levels needed for a longer workday, that could be swapped in.

With the hybrid design, a diesel engine powers an electric drivetrain, with motors operating each wheel or track assembly. An electric hydraulic pump and PTO round out the setup. This allows the standard autonomous machine to use conventional implements.

“That was important to us,” Landstra said. “We didn’t want to make a farmer buy new implements to use our machine.”

As for Kuhn, the company officially unveiled Karl, a 175-hp autonomous machine, ahead of Agritechnica. Kuhn expects to develop the prototype over the next five years.

The initial machine uses front- and rear-mounted tillage implements, but Jonus Wittemeier, a product manager at Kuhn, said other implements are being developed for use with the machine.

And as for the name Karl? “That’s a name that is the same in many languages,” he said, so it’s just an easy-to-remember brand for the prototype.

Read more about:

Autonomous

About the Author(s)

Willie Vogt

Willie Vogt has been covering agricultural technology for more than 40 years, with most of that time as editorial director for Farm Progress. He is passionate about helping farmers better understand how technology can help them succeed, when appropriately applied.

Subscribe to receive top agriculture news
Be informed daily with these free e-newsletters

You May Also Like