SOURCE: CNH Industrial
New Holland Agriculture Takes Part in GREAT Week Agri-Tech Event at Expo Milano 2015
Paul Snauwaert contributed to the Automation session of the Precision Agriculture event with a speech about robotics in crop mechanization and as a member of the discussion panel. In his presentation he highlighted the technological leadership of CNH Industrial in the search for an answer to the three challenges of the 21st century: food security, climate change and a sustainable use of key resources such as water, energy and land. He illustrated the significance of CNH Industrial's manufacturing plants around the world as an employment, social and technological engine for development with the goal of achieving sustainability through the modernization of agriculture, infrastructure, transport, energy generation and distribution systems.
Paul Snauwaert explained the main factors driving increasing levels of mechanization from the growing global population, shortages in skilled labor and farm consolidation to the increase in crop yields and the reduction in the use of herbicides and pesticides. By automating a machine's internal processes it is possible to improve its performance using fewer skilled operators, reduce operator fatigue, maximize its productivity and maintain high performance throughout the day.
He highlighted the importance of Big Data in enabling farmers to make informed decisions based on patterns and trends they can identify in the information that is available and what they collect with their equipment.
Paul Snauwaert also discussed the challenging area of research related to fully or highly automated machines to allow the safe operation of unsupervised equipment. With current technology, machines can have varying reactions to similar, but slightly different, situations. Going forward, research is looking into developing algorithms to enable machines to learn from experience. He also mentioned existing small agricultural robots that can be used to perform specific tasks such as spraying, pruning, mowing or plant handling in nurseries.
Looking at today's agriculture, we see bigger machinery to achieve economies of scale and make better use of the available manpower. The larger equipment comes with electronic controls and interfaces that allow for an easier transition to machine autonomy and already includes many levels of automation.
Snauwaert examined the Pros and Cons of using a "swarm" of small agricultural machines or big equipment, which range from the advantages of lower soil compaction and modularity of the former to easier automation and simpler maintenance of the latter. "Due to the initial high price of highly automated systems," commented Snauwaert, "every one of them will need to cover a large area to pay off the investment. We need to explore the different business models, including 'Autonomy as a service' and "Automation kit leasing', to mitigate the high initial investment and ensure the farming business has a faster Return on their Investment."