Listen to this article
Naïo Technologies, which makes agricultural robots, and VARTA AG, which provides battery technology, have announced that they will be joining forces to create an autonomous, transportable charging station for for farming robots.
Engineers Gaëtan Séverac and Aymeric Barthes founded Naïo Technologies in 2011. The Toulouse, France-based company designs, manufacturers, and markets agricultural systems co-built with farmers and consumers. It said its weeding robot can help mitigate worker shortages, the tedium of certain tasks, and the need for chemical inputs. Naïo said that nearly 160 of its robots are in use worldwide. They include Oz, which is designed for diversified market gardeners, Dino for weeding mound-grown vegetables, and Ted for wine growing. The company closed seed funding of $15.52 million (U.S.) in January 2020.
Ellwangen, Germany-based VARTA AG produces and markets microbatteries, household batteries, and energy storage systems. Its product range includes customer-specific batteries for a wide range of applications. The group currently employs almost 4,000 people. With five production and manufacturing facilities in Europe and Asia, as well as distribution centers in Asia, Europe, and North America, VARTA’s operating subsidiaries are currently active in over 75 countries worldwide.
VARTA, Naïo take agbotics off the grid
The partners said their shared objective is to provide end-to-end solutions allowing for a remote charging station where no connection to the electrical grid is necessary, thanks to wireless solar or regenerative systems. Autonomous recharging is intended to reduce the need for user interaction during operation.
By having agricultural robots navigate to charging trailers by themselves as they run out of battery power, Naïo and VARTA aim to enable farmers to use robots for 24 hours without worrying about power supply. This would be a major advantage, especially during seasonal peaks, the companies said.
The partnership has launched two proofs of concept to test the systems’ feasibility. The first one will integrate VARTA’s batteries in Oz, the first robot of Naïo Technologies dedicated to market gardeners and already used by more than 120 farmers. The pilot’s goal is to improve the robot’s autonomy by more than 30%.
The second proof of concept consists of creating a solar charging station that can be used directly in the field. These field charging stations would be a world first for agricultural robotics, the partners claimed.
Agricultural robotics an emerging growth market
“Bringing our expertise and experience to agrobots means that Naïo Technologies as a market leader can focus on their core strength: making the combination of robotics and farming a full success,” stated Steve Saunders, key account manager for the U.K. and France at VARTA. “VARTA will enable the robots to work more efficiently, as our power management solution will make charging faster, more flexible, and much easier, while our advanced battery technology will allow for higher performance.”
“Thanks to our historical background in the agricultural robotics environment, we can easily exchange with VARTA about the existing challenges from a user point of view,” said Severac, co-founder of Naïo. “As for all our robots, our priority is to offer to the end users, the farmers, an easy solution with the fewest possible constraints for their daily activities. Thanks to VARTA’s renowned expertise, we are really excited to continue moving forward in this direction.”
The companies said they will present first prototype the FIRA International Forum of Agricultural Robotics virtual event on Dec. 8 to 10, 2020.