IN a bid to give farmers a glimpse of what dairy farms will look like in the future, Lely has just unveiled some new concepts designed to further automate production systems.

Already well known for its advances in robotic milking, as proven by its sales of 10,000 Astronaut A5 robotic milking systems worldwide, it has taken another leap into the future and has introduced a new system of harvesting and feeding fresh grass to cows called the Lely Exos.

The concept is the first fully autonomous system for harvesting and feeding fresh grass in the shed during the growing season and in conjunction with grazing, if need be.

The main goal is to harvest fresh grass in fields up to 1km away from the farm to increase the nutritional value of the roughage in the cows diet more efficiently, therefore producing more milk from grass.

Exos is an electric powered machine using GPS to travel to the fields to autonomously mow, load and dispense grass to the cows back in the shed. It can autonomously harvest and provide fresh grass to cows 24 hours a day, thus saving time and labour for the farmer.

Lely says this completely new approach to grass use was also an opportunity to redesign mowing and harvesting technology. The low weight and soil-friendly technology of this machine means it can mow from early spring to late autumn.

The Exos is aimed at operating in tandem with the Lely Vector automatic feeding system and constantly monitors the percentage of fresh grass in the ration. The system also collects data in the field, so that the farmer can respond immediately to the grass supply at any given moment.

The first prototypes of the Exos are already operational on test farms, where as much information as possible about the system's capacity to harvest fresh grass, with daily reports generated from extensive testing.

Lely CEO, Andre van Troost, said that farms of the future will be completely robotised, operational 24/7 and based on the principle of allowing cows to move freely, so they can behave naturally, with excellent welfare guaranteed.

He said: “We live in a rapidly changing world where the population continues to grow. We desperately need farmers, because we expect the demand for food to increase by 70% by 2050.

“The impact of farming on the environment is also coming under increasing scrutiny and regulations are becoming stricter. Dairy farmers, therefore, will have to change the way they work to guarantee their future.”