What is the Technology
The Small Robot company is an example of a company using small robots to replace the jobs currently done by large tractors. Robots are smaller, lighter and more precise than the current farming systems using tractors.
By considering each individual plant as a single unit rather than thinking of the field as one unit, it will enable farming to have a much greater level of accuracy to all of its operations. The robots, when combined with AI technology, will deliver a more sustainable farming system.
How Does it Work
In the Small Robot Company scenario, three robots work together delivering different aspects of crop management. The ‘Tom’ robot is used for monitoring crops on a plant by plant basis. It will live on the farm and download the data it collects to the AI driven operating system ‘WILMA’. This data is converted into crop care instructions based on crop data modelling.
These instructions are checked by the farmer and carried out by the other two robots.
‘Dick’ microsprays each plant with fertiliser or chemical as required and removes weeds.
‘Harry’ is a robotic drill accurately planting combinable crops.
What are the Benefits to a Farmer / Agronomist
This digitalisation of agriculture aims is to make farms more profitable and increase yield and efficiency. It is also kinder to the soil, kinder to the environment, protects biodiversity, and enables permaculture at scale.
It is believed that using robots has the potential to reduce chemical usage in arable farming by as much as 95% and reduce cultivation energy and associated CO2 emissions by 90%. It will also significantly reduce labour required on farm.
Robots can also work in smaller and more unusually-shaped fields, making the most of headlands (the corners of the fields, which are usually underused) while protecting hedgerows, biodiversity and the British landscape.