German agricultural machinery manufacturer Claas has invested in a Dutch robotic start-up company to step into the autonomous tractor market.
The company has entered into a cooperative venture with AgXeed BV and acquired a minority shareholding in its international funding round as a mark of their commitment.
Claas recognises the farming industry must further increase productivity in the decades ahead to meet the needs of a growing global population.
However, with the number of people employed in the industry continuing to decline, and skilled labour increasingly difficult to find, robotic machines can help alleviate this in the future.
The agricultural machinery industry has come up with various solutions to address these challenges, ranging from operator assistance and machine optimisation systems to precision farming technologies, and even autonomous machines in different size and performance classes.
Claas says that collaborating with and investing in AgXeed marks a logical step towards future-proof technologies.
AgXeed says it offers a smart, sustainable and fully autonomous system with scalable hardware, virtual planning tools and extensive data models, claiming it is one of Europe’s leading companies in this sector today.
Thomas Bock, CEO of the Claas Group, said: “Our involvement provides Claas with access to innovative technologies in a familiar market segment and complements our own expertise in autonomy and robotics.
“In turn, AgXeed benefits from our extensive expertise and networks in many areas such as 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 state of development.
“This solution offers farmers and contractors concrete economic added value, and what’s more, it will soon be available,” he said.
AgXeed will be bringing its autonomous AgBot to fields, pastures and specialty crops alongside a full suite of vehicle peripherals. The aim is for this autonomous field robot with diesel-electric drive, wheels or crawler tracks, up to 156hp and standard three-point linkage, is to assist farmers with a wide range of tasks in future.
Optional crawler tracks with belt widths from 300 to 910mm, combined with a low maximum weight of six tonnes, without ballast, makes the AgBot very soil-friendly.
The vehicle also features an adjustable track width, load-sensing hydraulics and a linkage with a lift capacity of up to eight tonnes. An electric PTO, independent of the engine speed, and external high-voltage connections are optionally available.
The electric equipment includes all the technology required for hazard and obstacle detection, in addition to an RTK steering system.
Joris Hiddema co-founder of AgXeed, said: “This type of cooperation reflects exactly what we stand for at AgXeed. And this means setting up future-orientated alliances between innovative companies striving for sustainable agriculture where farmers are able to optimise productivity, while preserving the soil and the environment.
“In Claas we have a partner on board that believes in and shares our ideas on the future of agriculture and will accelerate bringing our solutions to the fields of farmers.”
AgBot, together with the associated software solutions and platforms, is expected to be launched in 2022 in various sizes and performance classes.