Karim Fahmy has been a research assistant at Fraunhofer ISE since November 2021. Alongside his work he’s currently finishing his Master’s Degree in Environmental Sciences (M.Sc.) with a focus on ecology of climate change.
The substructure of an agrivoltaic (APV) system offers various possibilities for exploiting synergies between electrical and agricultural layers. For example, a CNC (computerized-numerical-control) fully automatic field cultivation system can be integrated into an APV system, which moves across the field on rails attached to the substructure. Plant growth is monitored via sensors, and targeted, low-pesticide cultivation of sustainable mixed crops can be achieved. The power supply can be provided by the modules mounted on the substructure and used for various applications in the field. At the same time, automated field cultivation has the potential to save most costs of elevated APV systems, since large agricultural machinery does not have to be used. Heavy agricultural machinery and tillage amplify damage done to the soil structure. Replacing this machinery with an automated CNC field cultivation system can ensure adequate pore space, soil and water volume and contribute to better water and nutrient holding capacity and healthy plant root activity and development.
An automated smart cultivation machinery has already been developed by Farmbot. (https://farm.bot) This small-scale CNC field tillage device, starting at about 3,000 euros (about 2 m x 3 m) seeds, waters, measures soil moisture and kills weeds all by itself – controllable via a WEB-based interface (Farmbot Web-App).
To demonstrate the potential of scaling the FarmBot approach in an APV system, Fraunhofer ISE further developed this idea and mounted it on a miniature APV system in the summer of 2021 – creating an “APV-Bot”. Special miniature APV glass-glass modules above the farm bed could power the APV-bot. A model of this APV vision of the future would be an attractive contribution to urban gardening and greenhouse applications as well and further contribute to the decarbonization of the agricultural sector.