EkoNiva and Cognitive Pilot create service network for smart farm equipment
Cognitive Pilot and EkoNiva Holding Company created a nationwide service network for smart agricultural machinery in Russia, fitting farm machines with the C-Pilot AI-based autonomous driving system.
Cognitive Pilot, an autonomous driving technology joint venture of Russia’s Sberbank and Cognitive Technologies Group, and EkoNiva, Russian-German agricultural holding, the largest partner of international farm equipment manufacturer John Deere in Russia, have signed a three-year cooperation agreement.
Under the terms of the agreement, EkoNiva will promote and sell the Cognitive Agro Pilot system, as well as install, set up, maintain, and provide engineering support for it. The operations will cover 35 regions of Russia and more than 10 climate zones.
Cognitive Pilot professionals are already training EkoNiva engineers in installation and setting up the solution. In the coming months, all technical personnel of the company’s service department will be trained throughout Russia. Under the terms of the three-year contract, they are scheduled to install the system on up to 10,000 combines manufactured by different farm equipment producers.
“Fitting our customers’ equipment with autonomous motion systems should improve the efficiency of harvesting and cut the cost of grain for them by 3–5%," said Bjorne Drechsler, First Deputy CEO, EkoNivaTekhnika-Holding.
“The large-scale work to service combine harvesters across such a vast territory is expected to enable EkoNiva and Cognitive Pilot to amass the world’s most comprehensive video image database for further training of neural networks that combine harvesters already use in Russia, as well as in the U.S., Latin America, China, and other countries,” said Olga Uskova, CEO of Cognitive Pilot. “The cooperation between the companies will not only allow us to expand Cognitive Agro Pilot’s sales network in Russia but also provide our customers with high-quality and fast local services.”
The Cognitive Agro Pilot is an AI-based autonomous driving system for agricultural machinery—grain harvesters, tractors, sprayers—that lets machinery operators focus on the quality of harvesting while leaving the robot assistant to run the machinery itself. The system analyzes everything one video camera and by using a convolutional neural network designed for agronomic purposes that understands the types and positions of objects facing the machinery, builds the correct trajectory of the combine, and sends commands to perform maneuvers. According to the company, this sets the system apart from foreign solutions, which generally use a whole set of sensors in their models, like LiDARs for moving along the field’s edge, and stereo cameras for windrows.
The system is designed to safe operations in harsh weather conditions and with any light intensity. The solution does not have a GPS navigation system at the core of its control model. The computer vision technology detects obstacles, including people, animals, metallic objects, and stones along the way, and enables machinery to operate on spots with a weak satellite signal.
The system has already been successfully adopted in the U.S., Brazil, and China, as well as in several Russian regions. And in May 2020, Cognitive Pilot started a large-scale installation of the Cognitive Agro Pilot system on the farm machinery of Rusagro, the largest vertically-integrated agro holding in Russia. Under the contract signed by the companies, the solution will be installed on 242 combine harvesters Rusagro uses in Belgorod Region, Tambov Region, Kursk Region, Oryol Region, and Primorye Territory. The machines will be fitted with the solution step by step during harvesting in 2020 and 2021.
According to the project specifications, the autonomous system will control a combine’s unmanned movement:
- along the edge (sloped crop, cultivated land)
- along rows (a way that wheat, corn, sunflower, and other crops are planted)
- along windrows (cut crops formed into rows).
The system will also be automatically identifying obstacles along the route and informing combine operators about obstacles or route failures in case of manual control. Operators will have access to trajectory tracking in real time for each solution-equipped combine.
“So far, combines still need drivers. However, the automatic control system will enable them to focus more on managing and controlling other harvesting parameters, like the angle of the header, setting up the threshing process, and cleaning the grain,” said Uskova. “The edge capture when controlling a harvester by the AI system is stable at no more than 20 cm (7.87 in), which lets you avoid unnecessary passes and fuel losses. In the future, we plan to create a completely unmanned system.”
For more information, visit http://cognitivepilot.com.