For agricultural robotics to be more widely adopted, farmers will need services to help maintain and repair intelligent systems. EkoNiva Holding Co. and Cognitive Pilot have signed a three-year agreement to outfit farm machinery with the C-Pilot autonomous driving system and create a service network across Russia.
Moscow-based Cognitive Pilot is a technology joint venture of Sberbank and Cognitive Technologies Group. The company’s customers include Hyundai Mobis, Russian Railways, Transport Systems PC, and major Russian and international vehicle makers. It recently launched a pilot project to install the Cognitive Agro Pilot software and hardware in 242 combine harvesters used by Rusagro Group LLC.
EkoNiva is the largest partner of farm equipment manufacturer John Deere in Russia. Under the agreement, the Russian-German agricultural holding company will sell the Cognitive Agro Pilot system, as well as install, set up, maintain, and provide engineering support for it. The operations will cover 35 regions of Russia and more than 10 climate zones.
Sberbank supports Russian agbotics development
Cognitive Agro Pilot uses a convolutional neural network to analyze data from a single video camera to understand the types and positions of objects, build trajectories, and send commands to perform maneuvers. Many other agricultural systems use more expensive suites of sensors, according to the company.
C-Pilot is intended to provide autonomy to equipment such as grain harvesters, tractors, and sprayers, freeing operators to focus on the quality of harvesting, claimed Cognitive Pilot. The system can operate safely in harsh weather conditions, with any light intensity, and without GPS, it added.
The partnership between EkoNiva and Cognitive Pilot also includes the creation of new smart farming systems. The project is a part of the digital ecosystem of Sberbank, a multinational institution that is working to build up the Russian agricultural technology sector.
“The combination of the unique technological solutions of Sberbank’s Cognitive Pilot subsidiary and EkoNiva’s expertise in sales and services in the regions will position us to improve the quality of customer interactions using the Cognitive Agro Pilot system and help enhance the service level,” said Anatoly Popov, the deputy chairman of Sberbank’s executive board.
Training and nationwide support
Cognitive Pilot said it is already training EkoNiva engineers on how to install and set up its autonomy systems. The company plans to train its partner‘s entire service department, from the Leningrad region to Novosibirsk.
“The large-scale work to service combine harvesters across such a vast territory is expected to enable EkoNiva and Cognitive Pilot to amass the world’s most comprehensive video image database for further training of neural networks that combine harvesters already use in Russia, as well as in the U.S., Latin America, China, and other countries,” stated Olga Uskova, the CEO of Cognitive Pilot. “The cooperation between the companies will not only allow us to expand Cognitive Agro Pilot’s sales network in Russia, but also provide our customers with high-quality and fast local services.”
“EkoNiva’s service network will provide a full range of work, including installation, adjustment, repair services and maintenance, as well as consulting of agricultural enterprises about the Cognitive Agro Pilot system,” she told The Robot Report. “All the measures and work meet the highest level of the ‘basic dealer standard’ requirements introduced by John Deere and supported by Cognitive Pilot.”
“Service engineers will monitor the condition of the Cognitive Agro Pilot hardware and will provide the necessary technical advice,” Uskova said. “In case of any nonstandard technical situations, a specialized technical support team will come to the farms to solve complex technical issues in the shortest time. The satellite navigation system allows the dispatcher to identify the nearest engineer to the breakdown site and send him to the client.”
EkoNiva to provide autonomy for 10,000 combines
Under the terms of the three-year contract, technicians will install C-Pilot on up to 10,000 combines from different farm equipment manufacturers.
“Covering the introduction and maintenance of artificial intelligence systems for agricultural enterprises, this agreement is among the largest ones in the world,” said Bjorne Drechsler, first deputy CEO of EkoNivaTekhnika-Holding. “Fitting our customers’ equipment with autonomous motion systems should improve the efficiency of harvesting and cut the cost of grain for them by 3% to 5%.”
EkoNiva’s “vast geographic footprint and an extensive network of modern service centers will let it quickly scale up the use of artificial intelligence technology in Russia and reinforce its position as a smart agriculture leader,” he said.