Agricultural Automation: The Role of FPGA Control in Autonomous Machines


In the dynamic landscape of modern agriculture, precision, speed and efficiency have become paramount. FPGAs, with their parallel processing power and real-time capabilities, are set to revolutionizing machine control in agriculture. FPGA’s offer a host of benefits tailored to the unique challenges faced by machine design companies. Here’s how FPGA control can drive machine precision and efficiency in agricultural automation:

Real-time Precision

In the realm of agricultural machinery, precision is essential for tasks such as planting, spraying, and harvesting. FPGA-based systems excel in processing data from various sensors and actuators instantly. FPGA’s can allow machines to adjust parameters on the fly for optimal performance. What sets FPGA control apart is it’s hardware-based nature, delivering real-time results by design. Unlike software-based solutions, FPGA control (when designed correctly), eliminates PLC / microcontroller cycle time delays, ensuring precise execution of machine tasks.

Parallel processing:

FPGA’s are a blank canvas running two levels of software, the first software level, is the design of the hardware. So you can tell the FPGA what its hardware will be, and it creates it! It is possible to create multiple processors, or even hundreds of hardware sensor monitors, these can all be working real-time in parallel. Hardware monitors can control outputs directly without getting the processor involved. The second software level could be a traditional program running on a processor (that was created by the first level software) to oversee the other parallel hardware operations. Pretty cool aye!

Motion Control

High end Automation normally means lot’s of motors to control at the same time. Traditionally, controlling multiple servo & stepping motors requires scores of high-speed inputs and outputs (something normally in short supply in all but high end PLC’s). So a PLC can have high speed input and output cards, but they are still waiting for the PLC’s main control loop to get their next task.

Here at palmer automation we have designed FPGA based motion control that is rather exceptional. We can tell an actuator to be at a certain place at a certain time and it will do it without the main processor! Palmer Automation has made machines with FPGA modules controlling 228 motors!

In conclusion

FPGA control is set to revolutionize machine control in agricultural automation, offering real-time processing and scalability. As the agricultural industry continues to embrace automation, FPGA control will become a vital technology driving innovation and growth in modern farming.

Palmer automation has pioneered FPGA machine control in New Zealand. We have even developed an FPGA based PLC we call the “PAC” made right here in New Zealand.

Can we help you developed a specialized control system for a real-time aspect of your machine? Or can we design and built your complete control system and hardware? its all possible, just get in touch.