Dutch agbot technology company AgXeed is working with a major European equipment maker on the rollout of autonomous agricultural robots.

The €4bn Claas Group, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of agricultural engineering equipment, has entered into a cooperative venture with Dutch start-up AgXeed and acquired a minority shareholding in the company. The aim is to cooperate on the development and commercialisation of autonomous agricultural machines.

Claas is a family business founded in 1913 in Westphalia, Germany and is the European market leader in combine harvesters and the world leader in self-propelled forage harvesters.

Skilled labour is increasingly difficult to find in some regions and farmers still work longer hours than many other sectors, so the agricultural machinery industry has come up with various solutions to address these challenges, ranging from operator assistance and machine optimisation systems to precision farming technologies, and even autonomous machines in different size and performance classes.

AgXeed has developed its fully autonomous AgBot system with scalable hardware, virtual planning tools and extensive data models for launch in 2022 with a full suite of vehicle peripherals.

The aim is for this autonomous field robot with diesel-electric drive, wheels or crawler tracks, up to 156 hp and standard three-point linkage to assist farmers with a wide range of tasks in future.

“Our involvement provides Claas with access to innovative technologies in a familiar market segment and complements our own expertise in autonomy and robotics,” said Thomas Böck, CEO of the Claas Group. “In turn, AgXeed benefits from our extensive expertise and networks in many areas such as data transfer, interfaces and drivetrain solutions. It’s a win-win situation in our view, and one reason why we decided to invest in this start-up company, as well as the fact that the targeted AgXeed technologies are in an advanced state of development. This solution offers farmers and contractors concrete economic added value, and what’s more, it will soon be available.”

“This type of cooperation reflects exactly what we stand for at AgXeed,” said Joris Hiddema co-founder of AgXeed. “This means setting up future-orientated alliances between innovative companies striving for sustainable agriculture where farmers are able to optimize productivity, while preserving the soil and the environment. In CLAAS we have a partner on board that believes in and shares our ideas on the future of agriculture and will accelerate bringing our solutions to the fields of farmers.”

The centralised, web-based planning and analysis tool boosts efficiency through automated, optimised route planning and machine settings. Optional crawler tracks with belt widths from 300 to 910 mm, combined with a low maximum weight of 6.0 t (without ballast) makes the AgBot very soil-friendly. 

The vehicle also features an adjustable track width, load-sensing hydraulics and a linkage with a lift capacity of up to 8.0 tonnes. An electric PTO, independent of the engine speed, and external high-voltage connections are options. The electric equipment includes all the technology required for hazard and obstacle detection, in addition to an RTK steering system that adds a local wireless network to improve the accruace on the onboard GNSSS satellite navigation system.

AgBots will be launched in various sizes and performance classes, with a tour acorss Europe later this year. Further solutions are currently under development.

The investment round was led by specialist European agtech investor Amathaon Capital based in Brussels and Munich, although the terms of the deal were not disclosed. Amathaon has already invested with Claas on a full stack trading platform called E-Farm.;

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