Innovation: Robotic Farming

Farm Robot Innovation by Maryanne Kane


It’s innovation and agri-tech innovation in the United Kingdom’s fields of barley.  Researchers at Harper-Adams University in Edgmond, UK have robots doing the harvest at an experimental farm, the Hands Free Hectare.  It is robotic farming that frees humans of the heavy lifting.  You might call it robotic innovation down on the farm.  And, it could be the future of agriculture and agri-tech.

Autonomous Robot Vehicles and Innovation Harvests

At the Hands Free Hectare, the autonomous robotic vehicles did everything for the season.  They sowed seeds, fertilized, collected samples and harvested the 5 tons of spring barley.  A global first in innovation, agri-tech, robots, farming and autonomous harvests.

World’s First Robot Tended Farm

Agri-tech innovation researchers built the robots by using commercially available agriculture machines and open source software used by hobbyists for drones.  They utilized several small farm machines including a tractor and a combine to harvest the grain.  They fitted the machines with  actuators, electronics and robotic technology that allowed them to control the machines without any human operators.

Researchers started the farm robots with radio control.  Then they preprogrammed all the actions that needed to be done on the farm from planting until harvest into an autopilot system, making the robots autonomous.

Farm Robots on Autopilot and GPS

Robotic vehicles navigated on GPS toward targets and various tasks the researchers preordained.  But innovation is never without its challenges.  The researchers struggled with the machines following a straight line.  That caused a lot of crop damage.  But researchers believe they can fix that problem.  Furthermore they think the robotic farm will achieve better yields than a conventional farm of the same size.

Fleet of Farm Drones

Researchers also developed special grippers attached to drones.  Farmhand drones flew over the fields, clipped crop samples and delivered them to researchers.  Overall with the tractor, combine and drones,a first for agriculture, robotics, agri-tech and innovation.  Every needed task was performed by the robots.

Robotic Farms of the Future believes this innovation could be disruptive innovation for agriculture and agri-tech in the future. The UK researchers believe it could lead to more precise distribution of fertilizers and herbicides and better soil quality.  The  researchers also believe robotic technology could improve crop yields in global agriculture.  Increasing crop yields is one of the world’s most pressing needs as the population significantly grows.

For more information on the Hands Free Hectare robotic farm, go to   For more innovation news on cutting edge robots being developed by DARPA “Robots being taught Manners” and DARPA on “Swarming, Killer Robots”




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