One of the grand challenges of our times is to change agriculture into a more eco-friendly and biodiversity-friendly business. This transition requires, among others, production systems to change towards systems that are more intelligent and autonomous.
To support this transition we need better safety systems in agriculture. The safety systems available today, having exploited well-established sensing technologies, are not safe enough for humans and animals to live and work next to an autonomous agricultural machine. This project has gathered the best competences in Denmark to secure this shift towards safety systems that we can trust, exploiting recent advances in novel sensing technologies and completely rethought perception pipelines. We need that change now, for the benefit of the business and the society as a whole.
Goal and objective
Safe operation of service vehicles are needed to enable better land use and management.
This project focuses on developing stand-alone vehicle safety kits by adapting appropriate sensing technologies, computing and perception pipelines, for the application areas: grassland, lawn/turf, orchards/vineyards. The project intent is to reduce carbon footprint, increase biodiversity and reduce accidents. The safety kits are intended for machinery, ranging from tractors to mobile robots. To ensure end customers' needs are addressed, their feedback will be a project lighthouse for guiding the direction.
The aim of the project is to research, develop and evaluate reliable operation of autonomous machines based on perception systems for obstacle detection and local situational awareness, to reduce carbon footprint, protect biodiversity, humans and the application area.
Societal and economic impact
Renewed focus on accelerating the advent of secure systems in the open farmland, will transform Denmark into an advanced manufacturing superpower. Safe and fully autonomous machinery will support the development towards “the unmanned farm” which does not require labor force but adopts diverse novel technologies such as IoT, Big Data, AI, 5G technology, for performing all farm production operations through remote control, whole process automatic control of its facilities, equipment and machinery or autonomous control by robots.
This project promotes sustainable economic growth and higher levels of technological innovation. It will provide real benefits to society and create a safer and smarter world by providing decent work for all.
- Autonomous robots have a potential of reducing N2O emissions in arable fields by 25% when limiting traffic intensity and the risk of topsoil compaction during field traffic. Largest reductions are expected for heavy field traffic under wet conditions (late autumn, early spring) (e.g. harvest operations and slurry/fertilizer application).
- Autonomous robots will significantly reduce fuel consumption (up to 20%) due to lower traffic intensity, use of low pressure tires, and reduced need for energy input into soil tillage
- An increase in crop yield due to low impact field traffic will contribute to increased soil carbon input and storage.
Furthermore autonomous safe robots will make current labor-intensive cultivation systems (e.g. stripcropping, targeted mechanical weed control etc.) profitable, which will contribute to increased biodiversity locally, and at the same time reduce the need for the use of insecticides.
The use of pesticides in agriculture results in soil and groundwater contamination, which result in health hazards for humans and animals. The use of autonomous robots will enable site-specific mechanical weed control, thus greatly contributing to a reduction in the use of pesticides. Vision-based warning systems for disease or pest attacks will also become possible on autonomous machinery in the field.
Improved crop growth will increase nitrogen uptake by plants and reduce the risk of nitrogen leaching. Reduced compaction in wheel track will markedly reduce the risk of phosphorus loss via water erosion.
Health and Welfare
There is a great social benefit to making agricultural machinery safe. The Danish Hunters' Association estimates that 20,000 fawns are killed annually in DK alone during harvest work. This causes great stress for the machine operator and can result in roughage being contaminated with livestock poisoning as a result. Safe vehicles in agriculture will in this project become better at detecting human/animals and avoiding collisions and killings.
Furthermore, safe and fully autonomous machinery will increase agricultural productivity by assisting farmers by handling time-consuming and arduous tasks. The robot technology promotes sustainable agriculture and small-scale farmers. It eliminates the risk of loss of production and therefore helps to secure operating income.
- Offical title: SAVA - Safety in Autonomous Vehicles in Agriculture
- Innovation Fund Denmark investment: 15,9 mio DKK
- Total budget: 23,8 mio DKK
- Duration: 3,5 years