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Applied research, Autonomous Vehicle

Social innovation contribution to the robotization of an agricultural vehicle: towards new farmer/technology relationships



Project duration: 2016-2017

Project description

Since 2015, IVI and ELMEC have been working together on the design of a navigation system for an agricultural off-road autonomous vehicle. This vehicle will be able to accomplish binding tasks – such as weeding – in an automated way.

Being aware that this new technology will represent an important paradigm shift for the agricultural workers, the two partners wanted to have a better understanding of the relationship between farmers and the advent of robotization in their work environment.

That is why IVI and ELMEC have come together with CISA. Their goal was to create a space where farmers, designers and the manufacturer of the vehicle can discuss before the beginning of the vehicle design process.

The project structure included visiting the farmers, followed by a series of one-on-one interviews, culminating in two brainstorm workshops with the farmers, the IVI team and an agricultural stakeholder.


  • Presenting the big picture of all current production-related tasks in the farm-market agriculture field.
  • Identifying the wanted and unwanted functions to obtain a qualitative portrait of the ideal vehicle.
  • Co-constructing a virtual prototype of the vehicle by bringing IVI designers, farmers and ELMEC together in a participatory and iterative way.


Several observations were made following the discussion sessions with farmers. Here are the highlights:

  • Discussions with the farmers resulted in the identification of six wanted functions on the vehicle. Two appeared to be particularly unanimous: being able to carry out weeding and obtaining information on soil health.
  • The technical team, in collaboration with the farmers, built two technical datasheets to guide the design of the vehicle in order to meet their current needs.
  •  The different activities of the project made it also possible to measure the farmers perception of the arrival of an autonomous agricultural vehicle. In general, the majority of the farmers seem to have a positive opinion of this technology that could improve the quality of life and profitability of agricultural businesses.

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