The changes to the agriculture industry are far-reaching and wide-ranging. From robotics slowly making their way to operations around the world to the increased emphasis on environmentally friendly practices, automation companies are pivoting to meet their customers’ shifting needs and expectations.
VARTA, a leading global battery manufacturer, has set its sights on helping farmers to get the most out of their autonomous technologies. VARTA’s battery solutions and accessories like chargers or the VARTA CAN Gateway work together to generate, communicate, translate and display data. Ultimately, this empowers users to make decisions that save time, energy and money.
“Agriculture is facing a massive disruption that will change farming as we know it today, and therefore, data is key,” says Alexander Abele, Strategic Product Manager at VARTA. “In the future, data will help to power new business models in the agricultural market. Farmers, for example, will have the opportunity to avoid buying autonomous machines or investing in a fleet of vehicles by just paying for the services they need, when they need them.”
VARTA is preparing for the future now. Since it is not clearly decided how exactly the future of agriculture and the corresponding machines will unfold, its products are built to be adaptable, scalable and multipurpose. The bread-and-butter of the VARTA’s product line is its Application Specific Batteries (ASB). Abele says that the Easy Blade and Easy Block batteries in this product category are perfectly suited to agricultural operations.
“The off-the-shelf batteries are available in 24V, 36V and 48V,” he says. “Due to their universal form factor and the possibility of scalability, we cover the widest possible range of applications. This makes it possible for our customers to use the same battery as standalone with 1.5 kwh or up to 37.5 kwh with the help of 25 modules in parallel. This approach also makes it possible to flexibly meet the energy requirements of small-to-large applications across the entire portfolio of our customers with one battery.”
For automation companies that want to build a power source that’s specific to their machines, VARTA will design, manufacture and mass produce a customised battery. In either case, VARTA customers and their end-user benefit from batteries that are equipped with sensors and enable insights into key parameters. . This information is vital to help customers optimise their robotics.
“Within our batteries, a variety of sensors are integrated to monitor key parameters such as cell or battery temperature, determine state of charge or state of health,” Abele says. “The brain, the battery management system, processes the generated data and communicates this data with the external world via a Can Open Protocol.”
“With the help of our CAN Gateway,” Abele continues, “we are able to translate the CAN Open Protocol from the battery based on the requirements of our customer applications or the corresponding infrastructure like chargers, as well as to transfer the data to the cloud. The data can then be displayed on the front end using our dashboard or integrated into our customer's existing digital solution to give the end user more insight into the battery and its key performance indicators.”
Having the energy to power agricultural robots and autonomous technologies is essential. Being able to collect, analyse and understand the data will change the game entirely. VARTA believes the industry’s most successful future solutions will be born from what users are able to learn today.
“In the long term, the data will be used to know the equipment’s behavior and agriculture robots can be tested based on this knowledge,” Abele says, acknowledging that VARTA will use the data to better understand the user profiles of its agricultural customers. “Together with our cloud services, we will be able to recognise patterns by the use of the battery and by the application. This will help us identify anomalies, predict downtimes and recognize potential for optimisation.”
Armed with this knowledge, VARTA can expand its product offerings to best support the agricultural industry’s next steps. This is the company’s end goal. Those who offer the right tools at the right price make it possible for everyone—from farmers and suppliers to end consumers—to thrive.
“We will be able to use the data we collect to adapt the existing batteries to the corresponding requirements like fast charge options or develop future product generations,” Abele says. “We will then be able to create new solutions that are best suited for broad group of target customers and are, therefore, extremely cost efficient.”