Opico has branched into uncharted waters by taking on the distribution of Danish-made autonomous tool carriers.
Carbon neutral and powered by sunshine alone, the so-called FarmDroid is the brainchild of brothers Kristian and Jens Warming. The pair manufactured their first model in 2018 with help and funding from Danish robotics and engineering pioneer Esben Østergaard.
A world first according to its makers, the machines now operate in 18 countries carrying out both drilling and weeding, with more than 250 sold to date. Of these, six work on farms in the UK, predominantly in crops such as onions and sugar beet.
Mounted atop the machine’s steel frame are four solar panels which charge two lithium-ion batteries. Performance depends on a number of variable factors, such as sunlight conditions and the speed at which seeding or weeding takes place. On a full charge, it can operate continuously for 24 hours, stopping only when the batteries are flat, at which point it will wait for the sun to rise.
On cloudy days where solar charging abilities are hampered, an additional power bank can be charged up at home and used to power the robot for 8-12 hours.
The FarmDroid works continuously at a very sedate pace, covering up to 900m/hour (0.9kph) – the equivalent of about 6ha/day.
Operating without a camera system, the machine relies on GPS and RTK navigation. Programming the corner points of the field, as well as any obstacles, the FarmDroid will create a geofence and a seeding pattern, so that it knows exactly where to place each seed. This allows it to carry out inter-row weeding to within 5mm of a plant, and within 20mm for intra-row weeding.