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Self-propelled autonomous AURA mixer revealed

At the beginning of July 2022, KUHN gathered the European agricultural press to discover the new automated feeding solution: AURA. Journalists from the UK, Italy, Belgium, Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, Denmark, Germany and the Czech Republic discovered the performance of one of the first pre-production machines in France.

AURA revealed to European journalists

 

Autonomous from the silo to the trough

What is AURA?

AURA is an autonomous self-propelled mixer, which is capable of loading silo forages through its milling head, right through to distribution without any operator intervention.

Unveiled to the public on September 2021 at the SPACE in France, the self-propelled autonomous AURA mixer is the next generation of automated ration distribution solutions for dairy and fattening operations. With its built-in loading module, AURA stands out thanks to the flexibility it offers breeders through a whole range of functions, including loading, weighing, mixing, distribution, fodder push-back and reports on completed tasks. AURA was a prize-winner at INNOV’SPACE at SIMA AWARDS in February 2021 and again at INEL D’OR in September 2021.

    Self-propelled autonomous mixer AURA in static position

    AURA, a built-in loading module

    AURA has a multi-purpose milling head for loading all types of silage, and fibres such as hay, straw and grass haylage. The conveyor-mounted milling head is sized to reduce energy consumption.

    To increase efficiency, the milling head-conveyor unit moves laterally across the width of the machine to unload all the silage without AURA moving.

    The other ration components, such as concentrates and minerals, are loaded via augers mounted on the farm’s silos. The augers are fitted with a receiver that communicates with AURA's transmitter. Once the mixing tank is positioned under the auger, AURA starts the component filling program.

    AURA, a weighing data management module

    The tasks sent by the breeder are recorded in a rationing interface. This function records the precise quantities of each ration component, the distribution points and the number of daily distributions.

    AURA strictly follows this information and accurately performs the mixed rations requested by the breeder. AURA's built-in weighing system is accurate to the nearest kilo!

     

    Self-propelled autonomous mixer AURA at work in a farm

    AURA, a mixing module

    AURA has a 3 m3 mixing tank equipped with two vertical augers. We opted for a two-auger design because it offers a lower power requirement than a single mixing auger with a larger diameter.

    For the longevity of the whole unit, the lower part of the tank and 100% of the mixing augers are built with K-NOX technology, which guarantees a service life 6 times longer than the steel grades traditionally used on mixers.

     

    AURA, a distribution module

    Like the other automated feeding systems on the market, AURA performs multi-day feeding tasks in the time slots and frequencies the farmer programs. Supplying animals with a fresh, high-quality mixed ration stimulates their intake and keeps them calmer in the stables.

    Distribution is handled by a cross conveyor belt that unloads to the right or left of the machine. Manoeuvring in different building configurations is thus limited, which reduces downtime spent moving AURA.

    Because the distribution is placed at the rear of the machine, the ration is delivered close to the first head gates in buildings with no separate exits.

    Self-propelled autonomous mixer AURA at work in a farm

    AURA, fodder push-back module

    AURA is equipped with rotating brushes which bring the swath as close as possible to the head gates. These brushes operate simultaneously with the distribution or pass through to push back leftover fodder.

    The ration is pushed back to the right and/or left, which means the farmer can adapt to any type of feed passage without moving the machine unnecessarily.

    AURA, a navigation module

    AURA is a 100% accessible solution, designed for total integration with existing farm infrastructures. It comes equipped with two steering systems: RTK GPS SIM card-free technology coupled with motion sensors for use outdoors, and LIDAR technology for indoor manoeuvring. The systems ensure precise positioning down to the centimetre.

    If the GPS signal is lost, AURA’s motion sensors scan the robot’s surrounding to help it accurately find its way around the building or yard.

    AURA performs well on slopes of up to 20%, which means there is no need for any special flooring or land restructuring on most farms looking to automate their feeding operations.

    Self-propelled autonomous mixer AURA distributing to livestock

    AURA, a safety module

    AURA is a completely autonomous machine that must comply with applicable standards. AURA's safety system includes a set of sensors featuring various technologies (radar, laser, ultrasounds) and “sensitive edges” around the machine to ensure it moves about safely in its environment. As KUHN began to develop AURA, we joined a task force dedicated to the ISO3991 standard, specifically for automated feeding systems.

    AURA, an energy module

    AURA is designed to be as economical as possible in terms of operating costs. For this purpose, and to get the power required for the loading and unloading function, AURA is equipped with a 42 Kw STAGE 5 engine in compliance with current standards. As an option, the AURA-e version performs all the machines functions and travel in electric mode. Farmers and animals will appreciate the total absence of exhaust fumes and noise.

    A dairy farm tested AURA for an entire year

    GAEC CORDERIE has purchased an autonomous self-propelled AURA mixer in June 2021. This dairy farm, managed by 4 partners, operates in the municipality of La Bruffière in the north of the Vendée region (Western France). Previously equipped with a trailed mixer, this farm chose automated feeding for several reasons: work organisation, increased feeding precision and improved animal comfort.

    What are the key figures of this farm?

    • Dairy herd: 300 dairy cows (2,400,000 litres of milk produced / year),
    • Production level: 33 kg / day with 34.2 in TP (milk protein rate) and 43 in TB (milk butter rate),
    • Robotic milking system with 4 stalls,
    • Usable area: 430 Ha including 225 Ha of fodder area (irrigated maize, sorghum and grass) and 155 Ha of cereals,
    • Poultry production with 2 label poultry houses,
    • A 100 kW methanisation unit for livestock effluents.
    • Work organisation: 4 multi-skilled associates (for weekend replacements) with 1.5 employees and 1 apprentice.

    Why choosing AURA for this farm?

    With a ration composed of 31 kg of maize silage and 9 kg of meslin silage, the automation was designed by the partners based on different criteria:

    • No need to handle silage in a substitution stock,
    • Limiting the amount of time spent working on a daily basis,
    • Possibility to apply the mixed ration in several steps in order to benefit from a freshly made ration,
    • Make maximum use of the existing infrastructure,
    • Ergonomic and easy to use distribution solution.

    They naturally chose the AURA solution because of its ability to load and unload silage directly into the silage stocks while integrating perfectly with the various existing buildings.

    How has AURA performed over the past year?

    • 3,688 machine operating hours,
    • Distribution of machine operating time:
      • 45% silage cutting and loading,
      • 11% distribution hours,
      • 44% travel time,
    • 3,216,000 kg of mixed rations distributed,
    • 1.39% weighing drift (= difference between the programmed quantity and the quantity actually loaded by the machine).
    • Distribution frequency: 6 sequences for dairy cows (time range: 5:00 am to 10:00 pm),
    • Operating time: 10 hours per day,
    • Cycle time (silage cutting, loading, mixing and distribution): 46 minutes,
    • 3.7 litres / hour average consumption over 12 months.

     

    What are the benefits obtained by the farm?

    Amount of time spent working on a daily basis

    Before the integration of AURA, the daily feeding time was 1.5 hours. Since the integration of AURA, 30 minutes are required for the preparation of the silo edges, filling of the concentrate hoppers (once a fortnight), adjustment of the strand box.

    Self-propelled autonomous mixer AURA in static position

    Free time on the weekend!

    Before AURA, 3 people were needed on Saturday and 2 on Sunday. After AURA, 2 people on Saturday and only 1 person on Sunday.

    Impacts on dairy production and feeding

    Fewer leftovers and less competition at the trough between the different animals in the herd (calmer animals). Hot weather periods: no decrease in milk production (as a fresh ration is provided 6 times a day).

    Impacts on herd health and hygiene

    80% reduction in veterinary costs (savings: 8 to 10 K€ / year). Fewer foreign bodies in the ration thanks to the efficiency of the magnetic mixing screw device coupled with the fact that small mixtures can be provided. Previously, the farm lost approximately ten cows because of tumours and ruminal infections.

    Impacts on fodder area

    8 Ha of maize silage saved per year by precise feeding of the ration and reduction of leftovers at the trough. 4,380 litres of annual non-road diesel savings compared to the previous solution (trailed mixer).

    When will AURA be available?

    AURA is deployed step by step, starting by France. If all the tests with AURA remain conclusive and if all the indicators show a positive trend, AURA could be rolled out in series in other countries as from the end of 2024, beginning of 2025.

    A cow with AURA mixer in the background

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