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Dawn Of The Agbots

France is pushing for digital transformation of its agricultural sector. Robots are poised to play a key role, and startups in this sector have raised almost €100 million.

©Naïo technologies

In the realm of modern agriculture encompassing large-scale crops, vineyards, orchards, market gardening, and livestock farming, cutting-edge technologies, and notably robotic systems, are ushering in a new era.

Farming is a pivotal sector in France, which stands as Europe's leading producer and the sixth-largest global exporter of agri-food products. Yet this critical economic sector is undergoing a profound transformation. While the total amount of agricultural land remains stable, there has been a decrease of more than 20% in the number of farms over the past decade. The result is an increase in average farm size (69 hectares today compared to 42 hectares two decades ago). Concurrently, France’s agricultural workforce has declined by approximately 30% since the year 2000.

In response to the challenges posed by increased land holdings, a diminishing labor force, climate change and stringent regulations on chemical usage, an increasing number of French farmers are turning to Agbots.

Agbots have the potential to play a crucial role in the shift towards more productive economic and sustainable farming models. 

In crop farming, Agbots can handle tasks like sowing, weeding, harvesting, and heavy lifting. Equipped with cameras and autonomous sensors, they assist farmers in decision-making by providing essential data. Additionally, robots can enable precise applications of pesticides, fertilizers, water, and other resources, aiding in resource optimization. In animal farming, they contribute to feeding, herding, and milking cattle, while continuously monitoring animal health for early detection of distress or illness, ultimately enhancing overall well-being.

France’s Agbot industry is still emerging. However, increased government funding and farmer’s growing awareness of the benefits of robotic adoption suggest a robotic revolution may be on the horizon.

The Rise Of Agbots In French Farming

According to the recently formed government agency, France AgriTech, over three-quarters of France’s farming population now possesses at least one robotized tool.

Back in May this year, the Observatoire des usages numériques (Observatory of Digital Technology Usage), estimated there to be around 600 crop production robots currently in use in France with 25 different crop production robot models available to French farmers, which is five times more than in 2018. Crop production Agbots are currently most prevalent in the wine and marketing gardening sectors (circa 530 robots) where they are mainly used for weeding and hoeing. This is far ahead of the large-scale crops and horticulture sector where it is estimated that only around 25 crop production robots are in use. 

The use of robots is far more widespread in animal farming sectors with 18000 units in operation in 2023 marking an 80% increase over the past five years. The majority of these are milking robots. 

Market growth 

According to MarketsandMarkets, in 2023, the global agricultural robot market is valued at $13.5 Billion. It is projected to grow at a CAGR annual growth rate of 24% to reach over $40 Billion by 2028.

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