A deal between big German farm machinery company Claas and Dutch start-up AgXeed could help Australia agriculture ease its labour shortages.
Claas has bought a minority stake in AgXeed which is gearing up to release a range of AgBot autonomous field tractors next year.
Claas Group CEO Thomas Bock said the collaboration would fit AgXeed's expertise in autonomy and robotics with his company's extensive knowledge of data transfer, interfaces and drivetrain solutions.
"It's a win-win situation in our view and one reason why we decided to invest in this start-up company as well as the fact that the targeted AgXeed technologies are in an advanced stage of development.
"This solution offers farmers and contractors concrete value and, what's more, it will soon be available."
AgXeed co-founder Joris Hiddema said the partnership with Claas would enable the sharing of ideas on the future of farming and would accelerate the delivery of new autonomous machinery to farmers.
CLAAS Harvest Centre general manager for product Tim Needham said the collaboration could deliver big benefits for Australian farmers.
He said Claas was a world leader in developing and commercialising innovative machines and precision farming technologies that helped maximise productivity and efficiency
"However, one of the greatest limitations facing agriculture in Australia is the scarcity of skilled labour to operate these machines.
"Autonomous machines can perform time-consuming and often monotonous cropping operations, leaving farmers more time to deal with the most important jobs.
"In many cases, these machines can perform these tasks more efficiently and accurately than humans via the use of artificial intelligence to determine job sequencing, monitoring and machine optimisation system," Mr Needham said.
The AgBot range will cover a number of models of field robots powered by diesel-electric motors capable of delivering up to 116.3 kilowatts (156 horsepower).
Standard features will include RTK steering guidance, electronic hazard and obstacle detection, adjustable track width, load-sensing hydraulics and a three-point linkage with a lift capacity of eight tonnes.
Options include crawler tracks with belt widths from 300 to 910mm, an electric PTO and external high-voltage connections.
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