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CLAAS, AgXeed, Amazone and Müthing establish world’s first multi-manufacturer autonomy group

CLAAS, AgXeed, Amazone and Müthing have established the first multi-manufacturer autonomy group for the agricultural market. 3A – ADVANCED AUTOMATION & AUTONOMY was created to accelerate the development, standardization, and market introduction of semi- and fully-autonomous tractor-implement pairings. 

Designed for Efficiency

A shortage of skilled labor is a major factor driving the development of highly automated and autonomous technologies in industry and agriculture. The aim is not to replace skilled workers, but to free them up for more demanding tasks, especially at peak times. Harvest is a great example of this, when operating a combine, driving a grain cart, hauling to the elevator, tilling, managing residue and planting cover crops are performed simultaneously – stretching the capacity of skilled workers. New technologies can manage those peak demands using a less experienced staff.

The latest automation of agricultural processes calls for even closer collaboration between manufacturers of tractors and carrier vehicles, as well as implements. Because of this, CLAAS, AgXeed, Amazone and Müthing have joined forces to establish 3A – ADVANCED AUTOMATION & AUTONOMY. The three of the four partners have been working together in the field of autonomy for some time already. (CLAAS and Amazone are minority shareholders in the Dutch company AgXeed.) Through the establishment of 3A, these companies will more closely integrate their individual areas of expertise and create further partnerships to enable the developed technologies to be rolled out more rapidly and on a broader basis. 

2023 Agritechnica Silver Innovation Award Winner!

The 3A – ADVANCED AUTOMATION & AUTONOMY Group received a silver medal for its open approach to advancing and developing highly automated and autonomous tractor-implement combinations for field cultivation.

"We are delighted to join the ranks of award winners in the run-up to the world's leading trade show for agricultural machinery", say 3A founding members CLAAS; AgXeed and Amazone. "The Group's open, multi-manufacturer approach enables smaller manufacturers with fewer development resources to share in the progressive automation of fieldwork. The advantages are obvious: the Group's combined expertise will enable technologies to reach market maturity more rapidly, speeding up standardization in the process. Furthermore, with access to a wide range of manufacturer solutions, farmers and contractors will be able to select the technology best suited to the needs of their business."

Initial Solutions

The market-ready technology developed by the 3A group includes design and implementation software previously only available for autonomous field robots. By using an AgXeed box, farmers can now control tractors and implements as well. The level of control ranges from highly automated to autonomous. From planning, to implementation, to analysis, the new technology eases the workload of both farm managers and operators while increasing the efficiency of agricultural processes.

"Agricultural robots primarily operate in closed systems with limited applications and are often unable to work in parallel or in combination with other vehicles and implements," the development team explains. "This is where 3A's innovative approach comes in. We have developed the AgXeed box technology to connect tractors and implements to the planning and autonomous implementation process using the standard ISOBUS interface. This is an industry first. Through this interface, implements can interact with field robots, AgBots and tractors to enable automated or autonomous process optimization."

The first few products developed by 3A are the Amazone AutoTill for mulch cultivators, an electrified mulcher by Müthing that is equipped with sensors that communicate with the AgBot or tractor and CLAAS Autonomy connect, which incorporates the entire tillage planning and implementation process. These solutions, which have been tested under field conditions, are the starting point for further multi-manufacturer applications involving every conceivable machine combination for outdoor work processes.

Planning for More

In addition to A-B lines and A-B contours for automatic steering and route optimization, work orders for tractors may also include an application map. 3A goes one step further and enables preliminary planning specifically designed for process optimization. This includes the start and end point of application; headland turns, and site-specific implement control. Using real-life machine parameters – for example, rear linkage and hydraulic functions for adjusting working depth and intensity – 3A makes it possible to program dynamic adjustments to the machine combination before implementation to achieve the desired quality of work.

Up until now, closed systems have lacked planning, supervision, and implementation processes, except for application rates. But with Autonomy connect, CLAAS tractors and the implements they are paired with can perform fieldwork with a high degree of automation – or even autonomously. Depending on the degree of automation, the operator can perform other tasks from the cab, or even in the field or yard. Tasks are planned in the familiar CLAAS farm management information system (FMIS) or the AgXeed portal, where it has long been possible to schedule tracks and application maps for tasks.

Up to now, attempts to automate tillage have been limited to comfort functions. Autotill for Amazone cultivators continuously compares the tillage operating procedure with data from the tractors, to automate the adjustments previously made by the operator. 

CLAAS Autonomy connect, Amazone AutoTill, Müthing mulching solutions and AgXeed AgBot offer a wealth of significant advantages for the user:

  • Both the tractor and the implement perform all operations precisely as the farmer or contractor has planned.
  • The planning function not only calculates the best possible route; it also ensures that the tractor-implement combination is optimally configured. This prevents poor quality work and inefficiency resulting from incorrect settings.
  • The first plan forms the basis for reducing the workload in subsequent years, as only seasonal adjustments are then required – for example, depending on the main crop, follow-on crop and rotation.
  • Errors in the machine combination are detected by sensors and automatically corrected to maintain consistently high process quality. For example, the system automatically detects when the cultivator is at risk of clogging and adjusts the working depth and speed accordingly.
  • Responsibility for producing optimum results no longer lies solely with the operator, which reduces the pressure on them, especially during long working days.
  • Pre-planned and process-optimized machine-implement combinations are more energy efficient and thus more cost-effective to operate.
  • Farmers and highly qualified operators can perform more important operational tasks while the planned task is being performed, since constant supervision is no longer needed. On non-autonomous tractors, the technology also enables less skilled or experienced operators to produce optimal results.

Talks are currently underway with other machine manufacturers who are interested in joining the multi-manufacturer group and thus play an active role in expanding the range of applications.