The Agerris SwagBot farm robot started out as remote-controlled in 2016, but has now elevated to autonomous farm robot status following an au$6.5 million grant to take into every local paddock in 2020. Then the world.
The fully autonomous SwagBot is expected to be capable of identifying and eradicating weeds, while monitoring pastures and crops. And this is one you weren’t expecting, also be capable of herding cattle by itself, saving on tonnes of dog food.
The company behind SwagBot is Agerris. Headed by Professor Salah Sukkarieh, this robotics start-up is using technology created by the University of Sydney’s Australian Centre for Field Robotics. The au$6.5 million raised has set it on its course to commercialise robotics platforms, intelligent automated tools and artificial intelligence.
If the unfortunate should happen, and SwagBot hits a snag, Agerris has a second line of defence with Digital Farmhand. It is being developed as their second durable low-cost autonomous robotic platform.
Digital Farmhand has been promised to automate on-farm tasks, such as non-chemical weed removal, intelligent crop spraying and yield estimation. It has been designed to assist small-farm holdings, especially in the rowcrop and tree growing enterprises.
Agerris will initially trial and develop the systems locally in Australia and will then pursue global market opportunities. It is targeting a commercial offering for the domestic market to be available within 12 months.
And we get to see it first in Australia, with an expansion globally after that. However, the company itself warns, there’s still testing and development work to be finalised.
It appears it doesn’t matter whatever the commercial fate befalls early farm robots. There are more investors with seed money than ideas in the agricultural robotics market at present.
Expect an explosion of investments in seemingly impossible ventures over the next five years. In a market where the winner will take all.