GOVOR: NZ’s 50kg Electric Farmhand Revolutionizes Crop Care

Agovor, a New Zealand-based company, has unveiled its latest innovation: an autonomous lightweight electric tractor named GOVOR. Designed to revolutionize outdoor manual labor for row-based and specialty crops, GOVOR is a versatile machine capable of performing tasks such as spraying, mowing, data collection, and crop scouting. What sets GOVOR apart from other agricultural robots is its incredibly light weight of just 50 kilograms, coupled with an electric motor and direct drive transmission, making it both efficient and environmentally friendly.

The genesis of GOVOR can be traced back to the challenging days of New Zealand’s full lockdown. Founder and Director Richard Beaumont found himself in a predicament when his nursery’s workforce was drastically reduced from 30 to just five staff members. “When I was going up and down the rows spraying, I was thinking, ‘we definitely have to do some things more efficiently,’” Beaumont recalled. Inspired by existing machines in countries like Germany and driven by the pressing need to solve problems such as weeding, Beaumont began collaborating with engineering friends. “We didn’t even know we were going to build a robot. That was not our intention,” said Beaumont. It was only after automation engineer and co-founder Simon Carroll explored the potential of RTK GPS technology that the idea for an autonomous robot took shape.

The result of their efforts is GOVOR, a machine that can autonomously navigate rows. The team sources parts globally and assembles the units in New Zealand. After over two years of rigorous field testing in challenging environments, including narrow rows, turbulent weather, and rugged terrain, the fourth generation of GOVOR is now ready for the market. Customer feedback has played a crucial role in shaping its development, ensuring that the robot is as user-friendly and efficient as possible.

One of the standout features of GOVOR is its electric, lightweight design. “We wanted to solve more than one issue and not do things the way we had been doing them,” Beaumont explained. The narrow row spacing of 900 millimeters at the nursery dictated the robot’s width, and an electric motor was a natural choice given the energy requirements for a small vehicle. With a 12-hour runtime, GOVOR is both practical and sustainable.

The lightweight nature of the robot offers several benefits. It is highly maneuverable, can be easily lifted by two people, and fits in the back of a car. Its minimal impact on soil compaction allows farmers to return to the land sooner after adverse weather conditions. Additionally, the electric motor and recyclable materials underscore the environmental benefits of GOVOR. “Because we’re small and electric, we’ve also got a very low cost per kilometer,” Beaumont noted, emphasizing the cost-efficiency of the robot.

GOVOR’s autonomous capabilities address labor shortages and make it easier for users to perform repetitive, mundane tasks. The Agovor web portal allows farmers to deploy, monitor, and control the robot from any smartphone or computer. After initial setup, users can instruct the robot to perform tasks such as spraying, and it will autonomously navigate to the designated area and complete the job. If any issues arise, notifications are sent directly to the user’s phone.

The robot is particularly suited for row-based and specialty crops, including horticulture, berries, apples, and kiwifruit. Agovor is also exploring its potential in forestry. The company has developed a CDA sprayer with a 50-liter tank, providing an eight-hour runtime before needing a refill. Other attachments, such as an electric mower, are in the prototype stage, and Agovor is open to partnering with other companies for additional attachments.

For farmers managing various scales of operations, GOVOR offers flexibility. “If you’ve got 5 to 10 hectares, then you might get one. If you’ve got 100 hectares, then you can have 10 of these robots. You can run them in a fleet, using a smartphone,” Beaumont explained. The robot’s small size and electric nature make it a low-cost, efficient solution for modern farming challenges.

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