Russian company wants to automate U.S. ag equipment
Raised in a family of mathematicians, you might say developing artificial intelligence (AI) is in Olga Uskova’s genome.
Her father, Anatoly Uskov, was on the first team of AI program developers at the System Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences in the Soviet Union. The group developed Kaissa, a program that became the world computer chess champion in 1974. A cybernetics engineer, her mother created the first software models for bridge development.
Known as “The Mother of Russian AI,” Uskova is one of the top female technology entrepreneurs in the country. As the CEO of Cognitive Pilot, she believes AI offers a solution to many issues facing agriculture. The company’s focus on agriculture, Uskova says, is guided by three main principles.
“No matter how dramatic the current world situation (e.g., pandemics, wars, catastrophes, etc.), the most important issue for the existence of mankind is food security,” she says. “There should be no hungry children in the modern world!”
The main deterrents, Uskova believes, are related to factors like risky working conditions, lack of qualified personnel, the closure of borders as a result of pandemics or wars, and the impossibility of labor migration, etc. “Robotization is the natural way out and the right solution to reduce the industry’s dependence on the human factor,” she says.
The intellectualization of ag machinery, assisted by AI-based neural systems, transforms them from objects of labor into subjects of labor that can understand and make the right decisions. “With the help of such systems, people get stable and effective helpers to do the routine, unpleasant, and exhausting work,” Uskova says.
Lastly, agriculture’s business model must be developed and supported to attract innovative youth. “It’s important to change the prestige of the profession,” she says.
Automating Agriculture with AI
The Moscow-based company, in partnership with Sber, has developed Cognitive Agro Pilot. The autonomous, AI-based driving system for combines, tractors, and sprayers works without connection to GPS or satellites and does not require high-precision positioning like RTK.
Combine operators were among the first to appreciate the capabilities of Cognitive Agro Pilot. “A combine is a multifunctional device, and our system relieves the operator by taking over the task of controlling the movement and the header,” Uskova explains. “He is engaged more in tuning the adjustments to improve efficiency and achieve better results. On average, this improves efficiency by 20% to 30%.”
During the 2020 harvest season, over 350 New Holland, John Deere, and Claas combines were equipped with Cognitive Agro Pilot. The machines covered over 160,000 hectares (nearly 400,000 acres) and harvested more than 720,000 tons of crops in Russia. Because the technology helped users save on inputs like fuel, reduce human errors, and optimize business processes, the company says users collectively saved $6.5 million.
“Equipping harvesters with autonomous control systems has increased the efficiency of harvesting significantly,” says Bjorne Drexler, first deputy CEO, EkoNivaTekhnika-Holding. “Considering the wide dealer network of EkoNivaTekhnika-Holding and the fact that the system can be installed on any combine, regardless of the manufacturer’s brand and model, we can confidently say we’ve taken part in what is currently the largest industrial project aimed at ag tech robotization.”
Cognitive Agro Pilot Coming to The U.S.
One of the largest U.S. manufacturers of agricultural machinery is now testing the system. Beginning in January 2021, besides testing on combines, Cognitive Agro Pilot will also be tested on tractors.
“We promise that our technology will help every American farmer increase the productivity of his ag equipment by at least 20%,” she says.
Cognitive Agro Pilot will be available for purchase in the U.S. in February 2021. The system includes an autonomous unit to manage farm equipment, a video camera, a display, a set of connecting cables, and other control system elements. Users will also be able to access the interface through an Android mobile app. A network of dealerships will support the technology.
Click on the links below to see the technology in action.