Afara launches autonomous cotton picker

Afara Agricultural Technologies Inc. has developed AFARA-COTTON, an autonomous ground vehicle designed to collect cotton spilled on the ground after the mechanical harvesting process. The Turkish company has also developed automation for seeding, irrigation, disinfestation, and weeding.

According to Afara, 5% to 20% of annual cotton yields are unpicked by mechanical harvesters or are dropped to the ground during harvest. This valuable resource is currently either wasted or must be gathered by hand.

The company said AFARA-COTTON is an all-electric, self-driving platform to address this waste. It is currently selling its systems only in Turkey and select European countries.


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AFARA-COTTON cleans two rows at a time

Computer engineer Ömer Muratlı, the son of a farmer, invented the Afara Agricultural Robot in 2019. His family, which harvested cotton, had asked him to build a robot to collect remaining cotton. He patented the agricultural platform and brought it to the working prototype stage.

Afara Agricultural Technologies was established in 2023 with investment from the crowdfunding platform Fonlabüyüsün. The company is continuing work on a mass-production model.

As seen in the video animation above, the robot is equipped with four cameras, two lidar sensors, and ultrasonic sensors. Cameras scan the ground looking for the stray seed cotton.

An AI-based perception model identifies the seed cotton and deploys a suction cup to vacuum up the seed cotton and collect it in a central bailing area in the middle of the machine. The startup said it is targeting a 90% efficiency rate.

AFARA-COTTON autonomously traverses the field, avoiding obstacles as it cleans up two rows at a time. Currently, as the robot completes a row, the operator needs to manually realign it onto the next row and reinitiate the collection process.

The robot can accumulate up to 200 kg (440 lb.) before it needs to be emptied. While collecting the cotton, the picker drives up to 3.2 kph (2 mph). It can operate for up to six hours on a single charge. The current two-row model will be available for €120,000 to €130,000 ($131,275 to $142,231 U.S.).

image of the afara cotton picker.
AFARA-COTTON is designed to clean up cotton wastage from the field after the harvest. | Credit: AFARA

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Written by

Mike Oitzman

Mike Oitzman is Senior Editor of WTWH's Robotics Group, cohost of The Robot Report Podcast, and founder of the Mobile Robot Guide. Oitzman is a robotics industry veteran with 25-plus years of experience at various high-tech companies in the roles of marketing, sales and product management. He can be reached at moitzman@wtwhmedia.com.