QualiSpot is today’s “it”innovation experiment and this is what you should know about it
As part of the agROBOfood project, BioSense Institute is providing support to the QualiSpot Innovation experiment, chosen through an open call. Since the goal of the project is to encourage the effective application of robotic technologies in the agricultural and food sectors, QualiSpot fits the picture perfectly since its solution might just save the day […]
As part of the agROBOfood project, BioSense Institute is providing support to the QualiSpot Innovation experiment, chosen through an open call. Since the goal of the project is to encourage the effective application of robotic technologies in the agricultural and food sectors, QualiSpot fits the picture perfectly since its solution might just save the day for robotic manufacturers. In an interview with Christian Rodriguez, one of the QualiSpot team leaders, it is clear that QualiSpot Will address many challanges in robotic sector.
1. What are the main problems that manufacturers of robots or robotic components are facing, including Ambimetrics, the company you work in?
From a business perspective, the most important issue for Ambimetrics, and we suppose for other SMEs like us that are developing components, is our position in the product supply chain: we are on the lower side of it. We only develop a part of the whole product independently from the sector we work in so we depend on others to put our products on the market.
In our case, we develop a wide range of components intended for common and intelligent spray robots, but we depend on farmers being interested in the sprayer sold by our direct client. Sprayer prize, marketing and the whole performance are out of our scope.
The second issue and business-related is the need to convince our clients (the sprayer/device producers) that we can deliver high-quality high-performance components for an international market despite being an SME. We have also noticed some mistrust from big players to rely on a small enterprise to carry out its global projects. This second issue introduces a technical problem: we need to adapt our development and production processes prepared for manufacturing “prototypes” and small series of tens of units to series of a hundred devices on harsh deadlines.
Another technical problem sometimes overseen is the certification management for internationalization. Outside the EU, each country wants the documents, which demonstrates compliance with the applicable requirements, to be adapted to its rules and formats with the important investment in time and money.
Finally, yet importantly, nowadays a clear and actual problem is the one concerning semiconductor shortage, which can lead to production halts.
2. What prompted you to apply for the agROBOfood call for innovation experiments and what is the main objective of the QualiSpot experiment?
As a component developer, we work in symbiosis with downstream machinery manufacturers to bring our custom-made components to international markets. Reaching the global market and succeeding in it requires extremely high spray robot reliability and does not provide a margin for component errors.
We have reached a point where on the one hand, AMBI’s processes have to capture quality issues of a very complex system and on the other hand, our clients did not believe in our capability to release on time and with enough quality components for a fast-growing global demand.
The main objective of Qualispot is to assure that existing spot spraying components meet customers’ quality needs so we are able to generate global market impact, while not sacrificing AMBI’s ability to swiftly and cost-efficiently react to new customer/market requirements.We want to move from being a pure engineering service company to an agile, scalable producer of spot spray robotics
3. How your solutions developed within the agROBOfood project framework can help solve the problems mentioned above?
We have been able to change our development processes from top to bottom both in the software area and the hardware one: we have introduced the Continuous Integration system within our projects, allowing us to detect bugs sooner in the development process.
We have also introduced a Test-Driven Design standpoint in our developments, creating at first a great base of tests for all the already developed codes. We keep adding new ones for the new functionalities added to each SW release. The result is fewer bugs, the best quality and greater reliability for our clients.
On the hardware side, we have created several automated testers and simulators for our components being able to analyse more devices in less time avoiding human action.
We are able to validate upward supply chain provider elements, as well as assure our components are free of design/components bugs in a fast, and more important, traceable way. This has given us the needed tools to cope with the increasing demand and to present Clients with the quality results they demanded.
On the field, Qualispot has allowed us to put to test our latest developments. In this area, the most important thing we figured out is the lack of suitable measurement tools for precision agriculture in the sector. Coming from very demanding sectors concerning accuracy, traceability and precision, we are facing a shortage of “good” tools to demonstrate our components (and so the client´s robot sprayers which use them) are capable of being as efficient as we state.
4. What are the main characteristics and functionalities of the products?
We have two lines of work within the project: The internal one deals with Designing and building quality into the company’s DNA, making quality assurance a part of company culture, where quality is “owned” by the whole team: Continuous integration, automating testing by software and hardware tools are the clue.
On the external one, we are looking for more efficient and environment-friendly components, so we have developed and patented an electronic driving head for electric solenoid valves (for use in spot sprayers, as well other industrial processes) which save up to 95% of the power needed to move them.
We are also developing a spot spraying algorithm to reduce to the maximum the quantity of pesticide used for treating a field. We use AI edge processing as well as precision GPS to reduce the area treated and the quantity of wasted product used.
5. Do you think your solutions will have a global impact and gain a competitive edge in a global marketplace?
For the time being, the robotic spot sprayers as well as sprayers using our components are being successful in obtaining technical awards in national and international exhibitions from 2014 concerning innovation. On the field, farmers and researchers are obtaining the gains we say would be thanks to the perfect combination of the sprayer technology of our clients with our control systems and other components.
Qualispot has given AMBIMETRICS the chance to put our experience and knowledge into agriculture services, and we are sure we are ready to satisfy the demand of an agriculture market eager for productive high-tech devices for their work.
Our production has trebled in 2022 despite all the disturbance we can find in the world and we expect 2023 will be better, once Qualispot results can be translated to the production line.