Driverless tractors, combine harvesters and drones have grown a field of crops in Shropshire in a move that could change the face of farming. The autonomous vehicles followed a pre-determined path set by GPS to perform each task, while the field was monitored by scientists using self-driving drones. The project, called hands Free Hectare, began with autonomous tractors drilling channels to precise depths for the barley seeds to be planted. The tractor was also used to plant seeds and spray fungicides, herbicides, and fertilisers. An automated combine harvester then harvested the field of barley.
In a quiet corner of rural Hampshire, a robot called Rachel is pootling around an overgrown field. With bright orange casing and a smartphone clipped to her back end, she looks like a cross between an expensive toy and the kind of rover used on space missions. Up close, she has four USB ports, a disc-like GPS receiver, and the nuts and bolts of a system called Lidar, which enables her to orient herself using laser beams. She cost around £2,000 to make. Every three seconds, Rachel takes a closeup photograph of the plants and soil around her, which will build into a forensic map of the field and the wider farm beyond. After 20 minutes or so of this, she is momentarily disturbed by two of the farm's dogs, unsure what to make of her.
Orbiting satellites snap high-resolution images of the scene far below. In fact, it's science fiction already being engineered into reality. Today, robots empowered with artificial intelligence can zap weeds with preternatural precision, while autonomous tractors move with tireless efficiency across the farmland. Satellites can assess crop health from outer space, providing gobs of data to help produce the sort of business intelligence once accessible only to Fortune 500 companies. "Precision agriculture is on the brink of a new phase of development involving smart machines that can operate by themselves, which will allow production agriculture to become significantly more efficient.
Faced with seesawing commodity prices and the pressure to be more efficient and environmentally friendly, farmer Jamie Butler is trying out a new worker on his 450-acre farm in England's Hampshire countryside. Methodically inspecting Butler's winter wheat crop for weeds and pests, the laborer doesn't complain or even break a sweat. That's because it's a four-wheel robot dubbed'Tom' that uses GPS, artificial intelligence and smartphone technology to digitally map the field. Tom's creator, the Small Robot Company, is part of a wave of'agri-tech' startups working to transform production in a sector that is under economic strain due to market pressures to keep food cheap, a rising global population and the uncertainties of climate change. Most robots are still only being tested, but they offer a glimpse of how automation will spread from manufacturing plants into rural areas.
A team of agricultural engineers are attempting a world-first of growing and harvesting a field of cereal crop without a human setting foot on the land. Researchers have pioneered an autonomous tractor which can be steered by a farmer from a control room to carry out the drilling, seeding and spraying of the land. Then an automated combine harvester will harvest the field in the ground-breaking project. Researchers have pioneered an autonomous tractor which can be steered by a farmer from a control room to carry out the drilling, seeding and spraying of the land. Drones are also being used to monitor the crops so agronomists don't have to enter the field to carry out their observations.