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How could your tractor be so careful?

January 31, 2022  - By
Photo: Septentrio

Photo: Septentrio

On a French vineyard in the Loire Valley, a tractor is driving between the grape vines with no one behind the wheel. Meet TREKTOR, the autonomous hybrid robot that works tirelessly to weed the organic vineyard producing some of the finest Gamay wine, called Anjou Gamay Village.

After TREKTOR worked the land for a month, its developer, a company called Sitia, reviewed the quality of their autonomous robot’s work. They counted grape vines damaged during operation — two in one month — and approached the farmer to reconcile the liability. To Sitia’s surprise, he responded, “When I use my manual tractor to get the same job done, I damage at least two vines a day! How did your tractor manage to be so careful?” Sitia’s developers thought for a while and then replied, “It’s thanks to the high quality and accuracy of the components that are inside.”

“Despite the strong magnetic field emitted by the generator on the TREKTOR, the AsteRx SB ProDirect receiver did not have any issues,” said Clément Aubry-Tardif, Sitia’s R&D manager. “The spectrum analyzer in its web interface showed other small radio interferences aboard the robot, but everything was still working fine.”

Integrated into the TREKTOR is an AsteRx SB ProDirect dual-antenna receiver, which provides the reliable high-accuracy positioning and heading needed for autonomous operation. Sitia chose the receiver for the following reasons.

  • It has centimeter-level accuracy with RTK, which reduces crop damage and increases yields.
  • Its heading helps point implements in the right direction. Unlike inertial systems, it’s reliable and accurate even in static or slow-moving applications.
  • Built-in advanced interference mitigation (AIM+) technology makes it resistant to radio interference, while its LOCK+ technology ensures robust satellite tracking even under intense vibrations or shocks.
  • It includes an intuitive web interface for fast prototyping and easy real-time testing.

Sitia is a French company specializing in autonomous robots. Its TREKTOR helps compensate for the current farmer shortage, which is especially felt on organic farms, where weeding is seven times more labor intensive due to the use of few (if any) herbicides. TREKTOR is a flexible solution that can adjust its height and width on the fly, adapting to various working environments. It can also change implements to perform various functions. Depending on TREKTOR’s dimensions and implements, the distance from the crop to the robot changes, making high-accuracy positioning crucial to minimize damage to any of the crops.

About the Author:


Matteo Luccio, GPS World’s Editor-in-Chief, possesses more than 20 years of experience as a writer and editor for GNSS and geospatial technology magazines. He began his career in the industry in 2000, serving as managing editor of GPS World and Galileo’s World, then as editor of Earth Observation Magazine and GIS Monitor. His technical articles have been published in more than 20 professional magazines, including Professional Surveyor Magazine, Apogeo Spatial and xyHt. Luccio holds a master’s degree in political science from MIT. He can be reached at mluccio@gpsworld.com or 541-543-0525.

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