Friday, 08 September 2023 10:55

Robot that harvests grass set for debut

Written by  Mark Daniel
Lely Exos feeds fresh grass to cows in a barn. Lely Exos feeds fresh grass to cows in a barn.

Robotic milking specialist Lely has announced that Exos, a fully autonomous vehicle for harvesting and feeding fresh grass, will be commercially available to Dutch dairy farms from the middle of 2024.

Having been under development for around a decade, Lely first mentioned the vehicle in late 2020, but more recently talked about extensive testing on 13 Dutch farms, then confirming that these units will be joined by further seven pre-production systems before the end of this year.

Initially only available for purchase by Dutch dairy farmers, there will be a wider rollout to grass growing regions in neighbouring countries sometime in the future. Currently, the company is targeting farms with around 150 cows with a minimum of 40ha of grassland, although the autonomous vehicle has also been evaluated on farms with up to 350 animals.

Weighing around 3.4t and operating at speeds of 3-4km/h, a reciprocating cutter-bar with a low power demand offers a 2.0m working, and overall width of 2.8m. The machine’s bunker holds about 1.0t of fresh grass, that when harvested can be delivered to the right, left, or both sides. A front safety bumper is part of the standard spec, as are front and rear safety cameras. Outdoor navigation is via GPS, while ultrasonic sensors take over when the machine is operated indoors.

Lely Exos 2 FBTW

Lely Exos harvesting grass which will then be delivered by the robots to cows in the barn.

Autonomous fresh grass harvesting and feeding means fresh grass can be delivered to the animals on a 24-7 basis, without any increase in labour requirements. Thanks to the low weight of only 3400 kg and 500mm wide low-pressure tyres, the machine can mow from early spring until late autumn, utilising individual wheel drive and steering systems to prevent slip and friction when driving or cornering.

As well as harvesting fresh material, Lely Exos can also apply liquid fertiliser in the same process, via 10 outlets located directly behind the mowing unit.

In addition to typical liquid fertilisers, the circular fertilizer from the N-capture of the Lely Sphere-system is also possible, allowing the precise administration and discharge of liquids from the Lely Sphere to help make dairy farming circular.

Electricity to power the vehicle is supplied by a 400v on-board battery. All four wheels have individual electric motors the Exos runs on 520/50R17 tyres (0.8 bar pressure).

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