Claas has entered into a cooperative venture with Dutch start-up AgXeed B.V. and acquired a minority shareholding in the company's international funding round as a mark of their commitment. The aim is to cooperate on the development and commercialization of autonomous agricultural machines.
The farming industry must further increase productivity in the decades ahead to meet the needs of a growing global population. At the same time, the number of people employed in the industry, measured in terms of land area, continues to decline, while skilled labour is increasingly difficult to find in some regions and farmers still work longer hours than many other sectors. 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. For CLAAS, collaborating with and investing in AgXeed marks a logical step towards future-proof technologies.
Netherlands-based AgXeed offers a smart, sustainable and fully autonomous system with scalable hardware, virtual planning tools and extensive data models, making it one of Europe's leading companies in this sector today. To this end, AgXeed will be bringing its autonomous AgBot to fields, pastures and specialty crops alongside 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”, explains 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."
AgBot, together with the associated software solutions and platforms, is expected to be launched in 2022. 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 t. An electric PTO, independent of the engine speed, and external high-voltage connections are optionally available. The electric equipment includes all the technology required for hazard and obstacle detection, in addition to an RTK steering system.
AgBots will be launched in various sizes and performance classes. Further solutions are currently under development.