Countless vegetable farmers and seed producers are delighted they invested in Oz to help them out on the farm. With innovation at its core, Naïo Technologies is constantly seeking to enhance its robots to make them as multifunctional as possible for users. After several months of testing and collaboration with farmers, Oz the robot can now seed as well as weed! Ebra was the partner of choice for this initiative. Here’s a look back at the modification process and the end result: Oz gets sowing!
Seed and weed at the same time
“Oz has been using an RTK guidance system for a year now, making it extremely precise and more autonomous as it goes about its weeding work,” remarked Guillaume Delaunay, Naïo Technologies sales manager for the North West. He pointed out that this feature enabled the modifications to incorporate a seeder.
The results of the tests were very positive. “Sowing is essentially a preparatory step for Oz. During this pass, the robot marks out the rows. It generates its own map from the beginning of the technical route.” The next steps will be quicker and easier to implement because Oz knows exactly where to go. Seeding accuracy and linearity are greatly improved when compared with a tractor/seeder combination without RTK guidance. This means hoeing can be carried out as close as possible to the crop rows, helping to reduce in-row manual weeding time.
Ebra: manufacturer of precision market-gardening seeders
As often happens, the whole idea came about after conversations with customers. That was the signal to get in touch with Ebra, specialists in precision seeders for market gardening, located near Angers in France.
Sales representative Alban Courtemanche worked on the prototyping with Guillaume Delaunay. “The first attempt using a rototiller version of the seeder was unsuccessful.” Testing with the current seeder began in the autumn, using carrots in a greenhouse setting. “We had to work on adapting the coupling head to the robot. After the test phase, which was carried out by Naïo Technologies, we began to industrialise the process.” Using best practices and the latest techniques, the design office took on the task of drawing up plans to adapt the interface of the two machines. “The first units have been released and tested at various locations in the Pays de la Loire region of France, producing very satisfactory results.”
An easy-to-use mechanical single-seed seeder
“The principle of the seeder remains very simple, and therein lies its greatest strength,” said Alban Courtemanche. It is suitable for small-scale market gardeners, who are already familiar with its tractor-mounted version. The technology of sowing vegetable seeds has been perfected over many years by this long-established company. “It’s a gravity-fed seeder: the seeds are driven by a wheel, so the forward motion does all the work.”
The partnership does not end there. Research and development on the assembly continues, allowing agronomic and economic benchmarks to be established for future users. “We’ll carry out tests in-season to calculate the time savings.” Guillaume Delaunay is certain that the enhanced precision during planting can also be replicated during the weeding phase.
What other surprises does Oz have in store?
The exercise has provided inspiration for future initiatives. Oz has become quite the multitasker, performing the two key roles of seeding and weeding.
Not content with this initial success, the robot may offer new features in the future. After all, a top priority for market gardeners is to get the best value out of their investment in a robot. As Guillaume Delaunay pointed out, “By performing several tasks on the farm, Oz will have paid for itself in no time.”