Award-winning firm sees small robots as future for arable
Recent announcements and awards gave arable farmers a glimpse into the future. Small Robot Company, a British start-up, showcased its prototype Rachael robot at the Great Festival of Innovation in Hong Kong.
The company earlier won the prestigious Horizontal Innovation Award from the UK’s Institution of Engineering and Technology and High Value Manufacturing Catapult (set up to help companies bridge the gap from innovation to commercialisation.
This £50,000 research award will help in developing Harry, the company’s precision drilling and planting robot, from concept to in-field prototype. The innovative company uses robots and artificial intelligence to improve how food is produced, and to minimise chemical usage.
The technology is built on 15 years of robotics research by Professor Simon Blackmore, the leading expert on precision farming at Harper Adams University. Autonomy, geo-location, obstacle avoidance, naviwe gation, and accurate positioning within 2cm are built into the Small Robot Company’s Rachael, Tom, Dick and Harry farmbots.
Harry’s commercial trial is anticipated for October 2018. It is designed to accurately place seeds individually in the ground at a uniform depth, and create a plant level map showing the location of each seed, thus enabling farming to be digitised.
Ben Scott-Robinson, cofounder, Small Robot Company said, “Small Robot Company is excited to explore how can provide an arable crop service that brings benefit across the world.
”Rice remains the single most important food crop globally. But labour shortages, chemical overuse and improving yield are all ongoing difficulties.” “Being able to provide precision and automation for rice would not just be a step forward in farming, it will revolutionise agriculture for half the world’s population.” But the first crop Small Robot Company will focus on is wheat.
One of a team of robots for arable farming, Tom, above, monitors fields plant by plant, keeping track of their health and development.