The Lely Exos is the first autonomous machine that can harvest and feed grass to cows on farms up to 24 hours/day.
Grass plays a vital role on most Irish dairy farms, but it also has a increasingly important role on many farms on mainland Europe.
Although cows in some of these countries do get out to graze, the feeding of fresh grass in the shed is where most of grass intake happens.
This means that on many farms you will see a tractor with a front mower and a silage wagon behind.
But Lely has developed a fully autonomous machine that completes the job for farmers.
The Lely Exos can cut, collect, and then feed grass to cows.
There are currently 13 machines in operation in the Netherlands, with a further 10 to be in operation by the end of the year.
Is it expected that the first of these vehicles will be operational in Ireland in late-2024 or early 2025.
The Exos is a four-wheel drive and steer, fully electric vehicle. It has a 2m cutting width, works 24 hours/day, has a weight of 3.4t and can hold 1t of fresh weight grass.
It uses a double-knife cutter bar. This is used for its exact cutting, has low power requirement and is very compact.
On average it takes the machine about two hours for it cut, feed and charge – meaning that it can harvest 12 loads/day. This two-hour cycle use 4-5kWh.
The machine goes to the selected field, cuts the selected amount and then feeds the grass evenly in the shed to the cows.
A conveyor is used to move the grass into the storage area or bunker, then once a pile is formed the floor moves and more grass can enter.
A major focus of the design is to prevent damage occurring to the grass, with the aim to get grass in front of the cows without it being damaged.
The Exos is part of Lely’s circular-farming model, as it is able to spread liquid or granulated fertiliser after mowing.
On farms where the Lely Sphere is in place, the liquid fertiliser from the Sphere can be spread from the machine.
The machine is also in contact with a Lely Vector or Juno which may be placed on a farm to ensure that they work together and avoid any possible collision.
Being an autonomous vehicle means that the machine is continually learning and can detect changes to the yard or its path.
It can detect objects in front and behind to ensure that it doesn’t hit or crash into them.
The machine works off a management system, where the farmer selects the amount of grass they want to be harvested, in how many feeds, and how much nitrogen is spread afterwards.
A playlist can be created to select the fields that will be mown and the mowing pattern that the Exos should follow.
The machine has 24 hours remote monitoring from Lely; most of the current issues are being solved by the remote team.
Only when there is an issue that requires the farmer will they be notified.
According to the Lely team, this is one of the areas that farmers using the machine like the most, as their intervention with the machine is low.
The Exos has been in use on the Blokland farm since 2018; it was the second test farm for the Exos.
It has access to 40ha and on average harvests 1,300,000kg of grass/year, running on the farm from April to November, or for around 223 days.
There are 180 milking cows on the farm, milked by three Lely Astronauts; the farm also has a Vector feeding system.
The Exos and Vector are linked together on this farm to ensure that feeding is maximised and to stop the two machines from operating in the shed at the same time.