Sberbank, Cognitive Pilot, Rusagro start large-scale installation of unmanned solution on agricultural machinery

May 26, 2020
  • Cognitive Agro Pilot software and hardware suite to be installed on 242 combines used by Rusagro
  • Cognitive Agro Pilot use to cut grain costs 3–5% and drive grain harvest losses down by up to two times   

May 26, 2020, Moscow Sberbank, one of the world’s leading developers of artificial intelligence systems for unmanned vehicles Cognitive Pilot (a subsidiary of Sberbank and Cognitive Technologies), and Russia’s largest vertically integrated agricultural holding company Rusagro have started a large-scale introduction of Cognitive Agro Pilot, a solution for autonomous control of farm machinery.

Under the terms of the contract, the Cognitive Agro Pilot software and hardware suite 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. The first suites will be tested as soon as in mid-June.

The companies’ cooperation is part of the Digital Technologies national project, which is being run by the Skolkovo Foundation under Russian Government Decree No. 555 as of May 3, 2019.

Being part of the Sberbank ecosystem, this is the world’s largest project seeking one-time robotization of farm equipment in four climate zones at once within one agricultural holding company.

Alexander Vedyakhin, First Deputy Chairman of the Executive Board, Sberbank:

“A key partner of the Russian agriculture sector, Sberbank keeps working hard on digital technologies, including artificial intelligence ones, for agricultural companies. The scale of the signed contract, which is a world record for the automation of a fleet of agricultural machinery, reflects the demand for this type of technology and will benefit the accelerated development of this competence in Russia.”

Vadim Moshkovich, Chairman of the Board of Directors, Rusagro:

“Equipping the fleet of combine harvesters with autonomous AI-based control systems will increase the efficiency of harvesting significantly. Improving the efficiency of agricultural enterprises through the use of the latest self-driving technologies will bring the agricultural holding’s productivity to a new level, letting the work of the entire Rusagro team to have a quality breakthrough.”

Roman Shkoller, CEO for the agriculture business division, Rusagro:

“The use of autonomous machinery control systems during harvesting will minimize the risks of the negative impact of human errors and further optimize the use of combines. Interestingly, the large-scale adoption of the system coincided with the year when Russia is expecting record wheat crops. We have used all the resources to produce a good result during this year’s harvest time. Rusagro Holding is one of the global leaders in terms of digitization and innovations in the agriculture sector. Our strategy is aimed at increasing the EBITDA per hectare figure, which is a clone of unit economics in the agricultural business. Digitization is the only way to achieve it and build a truly transparent and efficient operating model, which can then be scaled further.”

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.

Olga Uskova, CEO, Cognitive Pilot:

“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. The edge capture when controlling a harvester by the AI system is stable at no more than 20 cm, which lets you avoid unnecessary passes and fuel losses. In general, the use of Cognitive Agro Pilot enables stakeholders to cut grain costs by 3–5% and drive grain harvest losses down by up to two times. In the future, we plan to create a completely unmanned system.”

The introduction of AI and machine learning technologies for building an automated precision farming system, including autonomous solutions to manage farm equipment, is among Rusagro’s top priorities. The company’s digital transformation office employs more than 100 people; the remuneration of all top managers is pegged to business results.

Cognitive Agro Pilot is an AI-based autonomous control solution for agricultural machinery like grain harvesters, tractors, and sprayers. The system analyzes images from just one video camera and by using a convolutional neural network designed for agronomic purposes understands the types and positions of objects facing the machinery, builds the correct trajectory of the combine, and sends commands to perform maneuvers. This sets Cognitive Agro Pilot apart from foreign solutions, which generally use a whole set of sensors in their models, like laser scanners for moving along the field’s edge, stereo cameras for windrows, etc.

Cognitive Agro Pilot ensures 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, which lets it detect obstacles, including people, animals, metallic objects, and stones along the way, and enables it to operate on the territories with a weak satellite signal. The suite being installed on combine harvesters under the Rusargo project includes an onboard computing unit, a video camera, a display, a set of connecting cables, and other elements of the control system.

The Cognitive Agro Pilot system has already been successfully adopted in the USA, Brazil, and China, as well as in several Russian regions such as Belgorod Region, Tomsk Region, Kurgan Region, the Republic of Tatarstan, etc. In 2019, the Cognitive Agro Pilot system won the international AVN ACES AWARD organized by the US Autonomous Vehicle Technology magazine.