SwarmFarm Robotics defines sustainable development in ag
Using precise positioning and autonomous mobility technology from Hexagon’s Autonomy & Positioning division, SwarmFarm Robotics is shaping an autonomous and sustainable future in agriculture.
Photo courtesy of SwarmFarm Robotics
SwarmFarm Robotics is undoubtedly part of the precision agriculture movement — using positioning technology and autonomous mobility to maximise yield and efficiency for their customers, all the while reducing environmental impacts. The Australian developer bucks other modern farming trends, most notably the march toward ever-larger machinery cultivating farms of ever-increasing acreage. By developing big technology in small machines, SwarmFarm aims to democratise autonomy and deliver sustainable agriculture where other autonomous tractors may be too large or expensive to tread.
“Our vision is to see our robots roll out to all corners of the world — remote areas that ag tech hasn’t touched before,” said SwarmFarm co-founder Andrew Bate. “We’re not here to automate, we’re here to create the future of farming.”
That vision is firmly rooted in reality. Over the past three years, SwarmFarm Robotics have farmed over 676,000 acres (274,000 hectares), resulting in 431,000 fewer litres of herbicide being applied in the catchment area for the Great Barrier Reef in 2021 alone. The savings amounted in some areas to a staggering 95% reduction in herbicide being sprayed on farm fields draining toward one of the world’s most iconic — and threatened — coral reefs.
“We’re literally cutting down their usage to 5% of what it used to be,” Bate said.
Video courtesy of SwarmFarm Robotics
Yet even that achievement understates SwarmBots’ potential. SwarmFarm’s robots allow farming practices that could eliminate some chemical inputs entirely, all while using less energy and preventing soil erosion.
Since 2012, SwarmFarm has developed five generations of SwarmBots, with an eye toward creating a platform that can be adapted for different purposes with a variety of crops in diverse geographic regions. The robots are lightweight at 10% of the weight of traditional farm equipment, using less fuel and minimising soil disturbance. Most critically for sustainable agriculture, SwarmBots enable multiple passes over fields, making possible the widespread application of natural herbicides and pesticides such as fungus or bacteria, which may require several applications over a period of days to be effective.
SwarmBots truly embody Hexagon’s strategy to enable sustainable development. They rely on dual SMART7 antennas from Hexagon | NovAtel to establish precise heading while stopped or in motion. SPAN GNSS+INS sensor fusion allows the robots to continue operating in GNSS-denied environments, such as orchards. Using precise positioning and autonomous mobility technology from Hexagon’s Autonomy & Positioning division, SwarmFarm Robotics leverages their expertise and Hexagon technology in a partnership to shape an autonomous and sustainable future.