Agriculture is transforming. Technological innovations are ushering in a new era of precision farming, with an incoming generation of intelligent and connected machines. Innovative solutions for agricultural trailers are part of this ongoing evolution, which will drive down production costs and increase efficiency across agricultural production units. “So far, trailers have remained far away from this technological revolution and represent a bottleneck to overall market transformation,” says Mr Francesco Radice, Chief Financial Officer at ADR and part of the TEKNOAX 2.0 team. TEKNOAX 2.0 a Horizon 2020-funded project, aimed to meet the increasing demand for intelligent components in the market of axles for farming trailers. Generally speaking, trailer axles have limited intelligence and no interaction capabilities. This makes every maintenance activity very onerous, and traceability and real-time assessment of working conditions difficult. The work can only be managed by installing very complex systems, unfit to the harsh environment conditions which characterise agriculture activities. Revolutionary thinking The innovative new axles combine mechanical innovations with digital solutions and multiple, embedded sensors. This creates a communication system between the ‘e-brain’ of the smart axle (the control unit) and a mobile app, which then transmits data to a dedicated collaborative platform. Real-time monitoring of axle action lets farmers plan maintenance interventions to increase the machinery life cycle. There are several key technological introductions, including weight and load capacity monitoring, distance and time calculations and a tyre pressure monitoring and remote inflation/deflation system. “TEKNOAX 2.0 will have a significant impact on the agricultural sector by revolutionising the axle concept for farmers and trailer manufacturers,” says Radice. The approach developed during the project is likely to be extended to other trailer components, he explains, which would boost overall agricultural efficiency. Collaborative agriculture The system was trialled successfully with farmers from Austria, Croatia and Slovenia. Moving the systems from laboratory conditions into field-tests was a challenging part of the project, particularly when testing the axles in harsh operational environments. Yet after receiving initial feedback from the first batch of validation sessions, the team were able to fine-tune the system, significantly improving it in order to meet the expectations of the end-users. The most important achievement was validation in relevant operational conditions. According to Radice the farmers that tested the axles consider the technology a milestone in future farming applications. They found the implementation of the individual components and the active visualisation of the measured data impressive. “We are proud of the final assessment from the end-users,” he says. The project also enables new and innovative business models in the European agricultural sector, based on renting and sharing trailers. This is possible largely due to the introduction of the collaborative platform on which the axles are managed. This could lower barriers to entry for entrepreneurs and start-ups who want to enter the market. “The renting services allow for economies of scale, increasing the competitiveness of the small farmers with respect to the larger ones,” says Radice. The next step will be the industrialisation of the new axles in order to be competitive in the market. “A special thanks to the key partners of the consortium: COLAERT, RINA Consulting and FARMTECH, that supported ADR in the completion of this successful project,” Radice adds.
TEKNOAX, smart, axles, precision farming, agriculture