As industries go, agriculture is one of the oldest. Since humans first started farming more than 10,000 years ago, advances in techniques and technology have led to a series of evolutions and revolutions. Irrigation. Crop rotation. Mechanization. Refrigeration. Synthetic fertilizers. Selective breeding. Just to name a few.
Today, we’re in the midst of a fourth agricultural revolution powered by AI, gene editing, drones, lab-grown meats and vertical farming – technologies that aim to make the industry more sustainable. A growing agroecology sector, which merges agricultural practices while minimizing environmental impact, is attracting significant investment and attention.
Agreenculture, a French company supported by the 3DEXPERIENCE Lab, is part of this budding sector. The startup designs, develops and produces autonomous solutions for the agricultural world. Combining versatile robotics with advanced satellite guidance, Agreenculture develops precision tools for producers with ambitions and demanding goals.
“Our short-term mission is to bring comfort to the biggest number of farmers out there,” said Jérôme Asmar, an agronomist and head of business development at Agreenculture. “On the long-term, we work to modernize agriculture, increase its productivity while preserving our ecosystem.”
Founded by an aeronautical engineer and son of a farmer, Agreenculture represents a marriage of disciplines, combining global navigation satellite systems (GNSS), aeronautics and, of course, agriculture. The team is made up of more than 40 PhDs, engineers and technicians, most of whom have a background in farming.
For the past few years, Agreenculture has been developing its satellite positioning and robot assistant, and testing its solutions with partners who will be future customers. Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE platform’s modeling and simulation apps help the team work faster from original idea to final product.
“This is our way to make sure to keep on the good track when it comes to product development,” said Asmar. “Farmers have had enough with complicated, over-dimensioned solutions. At Agreenculture, we focus on developing a friendly user solution that perfectly meets the needs of our users.”
Artificial Intelligence, Agricultural Revolution
The CEOL is Agreenculture’s autonomous agricultural robot. It is able to automate repetitive tasks, carrying or towing a range of equipment, and accomplishing in an hour what would require an eight-hour shift driving a tractor. A hybrid fuel system allows CEOL to reduce diesel consumption compared to conventional tractors. It’s also lighter, which helps maintain surface soil.
“Let’s take weeding for example,” says Asmar. “Our robot is using 10 times less fuel and has a five times better soil compaction factor comparing to a classic tractor, preserving the soil. … Using artificial intelligence and different sensors, our robots are able to adapt chemicals and fertilizers to the needs of the plant. Our technology reduces inputs and respects the ecosystem.”
The robot is guided with GNSS RTK positioning developed in-house. It offers automatic piloting with centimeteric precision. The AGC box, a guiding and positioning solution, guides a single robot or fleet, constantly calculating the best trajectories and avoiding obstacles. With LoRa and 4G communication protocols, the machine is always within the farmer’s reach through a smartphone or tablet.
“The robots work side-to-side with humans to improve the working conditions on the farm and replace the farmer on low-value activities, such as mechanical weeding,” Asmar said. “We must not see robots as competitors, but instead as assistants who will do what we ask them to do. If the farmer takes care of his machine, his machine will take care of him.”
Agreenculture’s solutions are reaching the end of their R&D phase. They’re increasing the size of test groups to collect more feedback and have even sold 10 robots to testers for continued use. You could say this is one idea that’s taken root.
The 3DEXPERIENCE Lab is Dassault Systèmes’ open laboratory to nurture and empower disruptive projects. Learn more about the 3DEXPERIENCE Lab.
WATCH the video below to see Jérôme Asmar explain Agreenculture’s technology.