Coupling of Crop Assignment and Vehicle Routing for Harvest Planning in Agriculture

Mogens Graf Plessen

A method for harvest planning based on the coupling of crop assignment with vehicle routing is presented. Given a setting with multiple fields, a path network connecting these, multiple depots at which a number of harvesters are initially located, the main question addressed is: Which crop out of a set of different crops to assign to each field when accounting for the given setting? It must be answered by every farm manager at the beginning of every work-cycle starting with plant seeding and ending with harvesting. Rather than solving an assignment problem only, it is here also accounted for the connectivity between fields. In practice, fields are often located distant apart. Traveling costs of machinery and limited harvesting windows demand optimised operation and route planning. Therefore, the proposed method outputs crop assignments to fields and simultaneously determines crop-tours, i.e., optimised sequences in which to service fields of the same crop during harvest. It is of particular relevance for larger farms and groups of farms that collaborate and share machinery. Integer programming based exact algorithms are derived. For large numbers of fields, where these algorithms may not be tractable due to computational constraints, elements of clustering and the solution of local Traveling Salesman Problems are added, thereby on the one hand rendering the method heuristic and in general suboptimal, but on the other hand maintaining large-scale applicability.

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