Meraque Group, a Malaysian robotics solutions company has introduced what it claims to be Malaysia's first Autonomous Ground Vehicle (AGV) designed for complex agricultural environments, the Robotic Agro in Complex Environment (RACE).
RACE was launched on 21 Sept by the Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Mohamad Sabu during the Malaysia International Agriculture Technology Exhibition at the Setia Alam Convention Centre.
An autonomous AGV, RACE is designed to navigate the intricate and challenging terrain of agricultural environments. It boasts a suite of features that promise to redefine precision and efficiency in the industry. They include - artificial intelligence (AI) powered mobility control, long-range (LoRa) real-time data transmission, light detection and ranging (LiDAR) navigation, an expansive 500-litre smart liquid tank, 12-metre maximum spray width and a robust 30° terrain-climbing capability.
Meraque has applied for patents for the incorporation of real-time kinematic (RTK) LoRA technology, swarm technology and smart spraying within the RACE system.
Md Razalee Ismail, CEO of Meraque, said that the 250-strong company’s commitment to innovation and sustainability has driven the development of RACE to not only transform the industry but also advance Malaysia's agricultural prowess on the global stage.
“As we stand on the precipice of a new era in agriculture, the launch of RACE marks a pivotal moment in our journey at Meraque. With RACE, we have evolved from a drone company to a leader in robotic automation, and this is just the beginning. We want to play a significant role in realising Malaysia's goal of becoming a prominent hub for robotics in services, agriculture and manufacturing, and achieving recognition as a high-tech nation by 2023.”
By 2025, the company aspires to be among the top 10 largest agricultural technology robotic automation companies globally with the official launch of RACE representing its evolution from a company primarily focused on drone technology to one that champions robotic automation, powered by AI, specifically tailored for the agriculture sector. This transformation underscores Meraque's commitment to reshaping and modernising the industry through cutting-edge technology.
The Malaysian robotics market is poised for substantial growth, with Meraque projecting CAGR of 17.50% over the next few years that is expected to result in a US$273.61 million (RM1.28 billion) market by 2027.
Meraque designed RACE to decrease dependence on foreign labour and enhance fertilizer spraying consistency in various crop and plantation fields, moving beyond just oil palm plantations. With a high-power computing module in the brain and AI, RACE is able to navigate its way autonomously between plants, and analyse surroundings for decision-making and routing, while setting boundaries using high-precision location points.
RACE also comes equipped with 360° vertical and horizontal directional spray functions, autonomous driving capabilities, a 700-kilogram maximum load capacity, advanced obstacle avoidance detection systems and an electronic parking system. The technology has already undergone rigorous real-world testing in plantations.
“We envision a future where technology empowers the agriculture industry and enhances food security. We are excited about the opportunities ahead and remain dedicated to making agriculture smarter, more efficient and more sustainable for everyone,” Razalee added.
As an integral component of the National Robotics Roadmap, Malaysia is setting its sights on becoming a prominent regional hub for robotics in sectors such as services, agriculture and manufacturing by the year 2030. In line with this vision, the country has identified Agriculture as one of its high-impact sectors. Malaysia ranks 14th on the 2020 Automation Readiness Index developed by The Economist and robotics manufacturer ABB which measures the readiness of 25 economies.