Research and Innovation Actions will focus on the design, development and testing of robotics systems for precision farming, including autonomous or semi-autonomous farm vehicles or sophisticated sensors and intervention mechanisms. The actions will prioritise technologies such as selective harvesting, more targeted weed reduction or environment friendly fertilization, and / or livestock management, based on better planning and targeted intervention, using sensors (local and aerial, even maybe earth observation satellite). This will also allow the tagging of agricultural produce or livestock for better traceability and subsequent big data processing, optimizing the whole agricultural process.
The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU between EUR 2 and 4 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude the submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.
The specific challenge here is to help attain high levels of precision in modern farming through the smart use of robotics. The technological challenge is to develop and demonstrate new robotics technologies in real-world scenarios involving such as automated mobility around irregular farmland areas, accurate sensing of crop and livestock conditions, and dextrous manipulation of farmed produce. Farming is facing many economic challenges in terms of productivity, cost-effectiveness and increasing labour shortage. Precision farming automation will increase farm productivity, reduce manual labour for laborious tasks and help to make farm holdings more sustainable. Many modern farmers already use high-tech solutions, e.g. digitally-controlled farm implements and even unmanned aerial vehicles. There are partially and fully automatic devices for most aspects of agricultural functions from grafting to seeding and planting, from harvesting to sorting, packaging and boxing, and livestock management. However, current systems still have significant drawbacks, in particular in terms of flexibility, efficiency, robustness, high operator cost and capital investment.
Precision farming using robotics technology applied to existing systems on a 1:1 scale where appropriate (the scale may differ according to the specific agricultural application) can lead to more resource-efficient and environment-friendly agricultural production. Roboticised precision farming not only promises to increase yields by optimising growth and harvesting processes, but could also lead to lower fertiliser and pesticide usage and improved soil quality through more targeted interventions. Robots can also gather operational data on a broader basis than human-operated devices. However, there is insufficient cross-over between emerging generic advances in field robotics and the more specific, practical needs of the modern farming community.
- significant increase in farm productivity with more environment-friendly processes (e.g. reduced water use, toxic substance use and soil compaction);
- increase in the safety, reliability and manageability of agricultural technology, reducing excessive human burden for laborious tasks.