The ETAROB field robot, developed by the MASCOR (Mobile Autonomous Systems and Cognitive Robotics) Institute at FH Aachen University of Applied Sciences, is designed to effectively remove weeds and, in so doing, reduce the use of chemicals in agriculture. ETAROB detects plants fully autonomously by means of their structure as it moves across fields and eliminates weeds by applying electric shocks. "Our field robot is a key step toward making farming more environmentally friendly and provides an impressive example of the innovative prowess of universities of applied sciences," explains Prof. Marcus Baumann, rector of the university.
As using chemicals in farming and diesel for tractors is not without controversy, precision farming - a research field at the Institute for Applied Automation and Mechatronics (IaAM) of FH Aachen - highlights new possibilities. These include the ETAROB field robot, jointly developed with the university's MASCOR Institute. "Just like humans, the robot is able to detect plants and learn from accumulated experience," explains Josef Franko, co-founder of the project and a research assistant at the MASCOR Institute. "The idea has been pursued for over twenty years." The field robot concept was put into practice by Franko, together with FH Aachen university graduates and research assistants Enno Dülberg and Heiko Engemann. Besides the mobile field robot, the team - working with the agricultural software company RIWO Agrarsoftware - has also developed the ETAS field robot software, which enables autonomous operation. ETAROB's electric drive train further boosts the robot’s eco-friendly credentials. Meanwhile, the field robot concept is also set to be extended to winegrowing. In partnership with Zasso GmbH, a smaller robot is already being created to remove weeds in vineyards. What's more, the developers also envision a role for the field robot in harvesting crops.
FH Aachen University of Applied Sciences (52066 Aachen, Germany)