Short description of project idea :
European agricultural industry of today has a high yield but is also plagued by problems with biological, economic and social sustainability. European and national authorities aim to improve on these areas, but farming is at least in part driven by economy of scale. Smaller farming units close when their products are priced out of competition due to higher production costs. With larger fields, larger equipment is deemed necessary to plow, sow and harvest. A problem with the heavier equipment is that the soil is compacted, leading to reduced biodiversity and poor permeability making crops less resilient to pests and drought. Large monocultures are more vulnerable and larger quantities of pesticides and herbicides are used. We argue that an autonomous lightweight agricultural vehicle, able to sow, weed and harvest needs to be developed. It can solve the problem with soil compaction, in the end removing the need to plow the soil at all. Using controlled traffic farming (CTF) further reduces soil compaction and allows for mechanical weeding between the crops, as well as sowing cover crops binding nitrogen, increasing the carbon content of the soil and supporting biodiversity. Further, being autonomous the vehicle can support small-scale farms, allowing for a part-time employment as the agricultural business grows or as a complement. The vehicle is also projected to be sold at a price substantially lower than a conventional setup, reducing the barrier to move into agriculture. Since the vehicle can be economically viable on smaller fields, the size of each field used per crop can be reduced, again reducing the large monocultures. Edge zones can be used as permanent biodiversity borders, supporting pest-controlling wildlife near the field. Together with other improvements such as broadband expansion, agriculture again becomes a possible occupation for more making it possible to keep rural areas populated, supporting other businesses, schools and services as well as reducing stress on metropolitan growth. The vehicle we have in mind will be highly adaptable with different functions performed by modules that can be interchanged to suit the task at hand. Modules that are not used at the moment can be serviced while the vehicle is busy using another module. Propulsion is also planned to be modular, allowing each farm to use the fuel/energy source most suitable for them, such as biogas or natural gas, photovoltaic or wind generators with batteries or other fuels.
Main areas of expertise:
Autonomous system and robotics.
Name of the organisation:
Alfred Nobel Science Park AB
Short description of organisation:
Alfred Nobel Science Park is the central actor in the regional innovation system, forming a core partner due to their experience in communication and bringing-together the diverse actors. The park has already accompanied all previous activities of Örebro University in the area of additive Manufactoring and robotics. Besides that, the park facilitates and has good experience of running a testbed (financed by Vinnova) to enable development and tests of different solutions that will gain the target group of elderly and disabled persons. Together with the municipality of Örebro and the County council the testbed has its focus on user-driven solutions and innovations. The park cooperate with a number of diverse companies, from startups to international level, in the field of Robotic and Autonomous system.