Harper Adams University Robot

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Harper Adams University Robot

Field to be farmed exclusively by robots – a world-first

In a world-first, members of Harper Adams University engineering staff, supported and led by precision farming specialist Precision Decisions Ltd, are attempting to grow and harvest a hectare of cereal crops; all without stepping a foot into the field.

The project entitled ‘Hands Free Hectare’ has recently got underway, with the team having to create their first autonomous farming machinery, ready for drilling a spring crop in March.

Kit Franklin, one of the researchers, said: “As a team, we believe there is now no technological barrier to automated field agriculture. This project gives us the opportunity to prove this and change current public perception.

“Previously, people have automised sections of agricultural systems, but funding and interest generally only goes towards one single area. We’re hoping to string everything together to create one whole system, which will allow us to farm our hectare of cereal crop from establishment to harvest, without having to go into the field.

“We are confident that we are going to be successful implementing current open source technology, but obviously there is an element of risk. This is the first time in the world that this has been done but pushing boundaries is what engineering research is about.

“We will be using small-scale machinery that is already available on the market, and adapting these in the university’s engineering labs ready for the autonomous field work.

“We will be drilling a spring crop in March. April to July will comprise crop husband activities with remote agronomy and autonomous application of required inputs and then harvesting in August and September.”

On why this project is important, Kit added: “Automation is the future of farming. We’re currently at a stage where farm machinery has got to unsustainable sizes.