Lely Exos: A fully autonomous system for harvesting and feeding fresh grass

Lely Exos Autonomous Fresh Grass Harvester Feeder
The Lely Exos streamlines cutting, transporting, and feeding grass in one go, saving on labor, fuel, machinery, storage, and feed costs compared to silage. Images courtesy Lely

Fresh grass serves as a crucial source of nutrition for dairy cattle, providing the highest levels of protein and energy when freshly harvested. Incorporating fresh grass into cattle diets reduces the need for protein from concentrates, enhancing the efficiency and sustainability of dairy farming. The Lely Exos, the first autonomous solution for harvesting and feeding fresh grass multiple times a day, operates 24/7, maximizing the nutritional value of roughage from farm-owned land with minimal labor requirements.

Benefits of fresh grass

Efficient grass utilization: Fresh grass optimally harnesses the nutrients and energy within the plant, leading to increased milk production directly from the farm’s own land.

Combined cutting and feeding: By cutting, transporting, and feeding grass in a single operation, the Lely Exos saves on labor, fuel, machinery, storage, and feed costs typically associated with silage.

Environmental and cow health benefits: Research indicates that cows consuming fresh grass emit less intestinal methane due to better digestibility. Additionally, grass captures nitrogen from the air and enhances soil organic matter, contributing to improved soil health and reduced environmental impact.

Lely Exos Cow Health
Lely mentions that fresh grass boosts cow health and milk production with higher protein and energy content compared to silage, reducing the need for additional supplements.

Functionality of the Lely Exos

The Lely Exos system operates autonomously, driven by orders from a management system. It proceeds to the field, cuts the required amount of grass, applies fertilizer immediately, transports the grass to the barn, and distributes it to the cows. After completing these tasks, the Exos returns for recharging and awaits the next assignment.

Precision and care in harvesting: The Lely Exos features a double knife cutter bar that cuts the grass cleanly. Soft plastic flaps then gently move the grass away from the cutter bar, minimizing damage and loss while ensuring high-quality grass reaches the cows.

Lely Exos Cutterbar Plastic Flaps
The double knife cutterbar cleanly cuts the grass, while soft plastic flaps gently transport it to the bunker.

Season-long operation: Designed for soft soil conditions and sensitive swards, the Exos operates from early spring to late autumn. Its low weight and low-pressure tires, combined with an individual wheel drive and steering system, prevent wheel spin and friction, preserving the soil structure.

Direct fertilizer application: The system applies liquid fertilizer during the same pass as mowing. This controlled application through ten outlets ensures timely fertilization. The Exos can utilize various types of liquid fertilizers, including circular fertilizer produced by the Lely Sphere N-capture system.

Lely Exos Direct Fertiliser Application
Lely Exos applies liquid fertilizer precisely and timely through ten outlets, including circular fertilizer from Lely Sphere, in the same pass as mowing.

Technical specifications

The Lely Exos is equipped with several advanced features to ensure efficient and safe operation:

Safety features: A front safety bumper, additional rearward buffer, and lightweight, fully opening front cover for easy access.

Navigation and control: Cameras on the front and back of the machine facilitate timely speed reduction and stopping. GPS ensures accurate outdoor navigation, while ultrasonic sensors aid in barn driving.

Cutting and transport: The double knife cutter bar boosts rapid regrowth, and the lightweight conveyor belt acts as a bunker floor, supported by a weighing system to register yield and feed results.

Grass distribution: Electric-driven distribution rollers gently discharge the grass, with options for right, left, or dual-side unloading conveyor belts.

Mobility: Individual wheel drives with 500-mm wide flotation tires and low tire pressure ensure gentle handling of the soil.

Power system: An energy-efficient electric drive system powered by a centrally located battery pack and controlled by an onboard computer.

Lely Exos Low Pressure Tires
Lely Exos, with its low weight and low-pressure tires, is designed for soft soil and sensitive swards, allowing it to mow efficiently from early spring to late autumn.

Advantages for dairy farmers

The introduction of the Lely Exos offers numerous benefits to dairy farmers, particularly in enhancing the efficiency and sustainability of their operations:

Autonomous operation: The Exos operates around the clock, reducing the labor commitment for farmers.

Extended growing season: Its ability to function from early spring to late autumn maximizes the utilization of the grass growing season.

Reduced environmental impact: By applying fertilizer immediately after mowing, the Exos minimizes nutrient loss and reduces the need for additional fertilization passes, leading to lower fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

Improved cow health and productivity: Fresh grass in the diet improves cow health and increases milk production efficiency.

Lely Exos Autonomous Fresh Grass Harvester Feeder Components
Different components of the Lely Exos.

Availability and pricing

The Lely Exos system will be commercially available from mid-2024, initially launching in the Netherlands with plans for gradual expansion to other grassy regions in surrounding countries. The pricing details have not been specified yet, but the investment is expected to yield significant returns through labor savings, reduced feed costs, and enhanced milk production from utilizing farm-grown grass.

Future prospects

Lely Exos aligns with the broader vision of creating a sustainable, circular dairy farm. By preventing nutrient loss and reducing the number of operations required, the system supports a more eco-friendly and efficient farming model. The Exos’s low mowing speed and capacity to mark meadow bird nests also make it compatible with active meadow bird management, promoting biodiversity.

Lely Exos Feeding Cows
Fresh grass can be used to supplement silage or as a standalone feed, offering higher protein and energy content for cows.

In conclusion, the Lely Exos represents a significant advancement in autonomous agricultural technology, providing dairy farmers with a practical and efficient solution for maximizing the use of fresh grass. As the system becomes commercially available, it promises to bring substantial benefits in terms of productivity, sustainability, and cost savings.

Source: Lely