Robotics company adds the brains to its farming tools

A farm robotics group is launching the commercial artificial intelligence system behind its agri-robotic fleet which scans, seeds and weeds crops, bringing the concept potentially closer to more widespread farm use.

The Small Robot Company says its newly named Wilma will provide “per plant intelligence” to underpin a new approach of chemical-free farming conducted by its three existing robots Tom, Dick and Harry.

Under the system being developed, Tom scans crops, Dick has the ability to kill any weed electronically, while Harry can precision drill the next crop.

Ben Scott-Robinson, chief executive officer and co-founder of the group, says that Wilma will create a per-plant crop map of a field and can recognise disease and the nutrient status of the plant, enabling precision weeding in the future and the application of inputs such as nutrients or fungicides.

See also: Video: The world’s first robotic weed mapping service

Precise weed control 

He points out that if the widely-used herbicide glyphosate is ever banned, then the ability to kill pernicious weeds as they appear will mean farmers not having to wait to drill, and able to plant crops in the better weather of early autumn.

One of the first farmers to trial the new system is Farmers Weekly Farmer Focus writer Craig Livingstone who manages the Lockerley Estate in Hampshire. Currently, the lightweight monitoring robot Tom is scanning emerging wheat on his farm, creating a per plant view of his fields.

He says that by using Wilma, he can determine weed density and locations, and also look to assess potential yield. He is convinced that by reducing the trafficking on the soil and minimising the use of pesticides, he will create more productive and functioning soils.

“Robotics offer us a real chance to sustainably answer the many questions of modern agriculture in responding to climate change, carbon sequestration, biodiversity and of course soil and food security,” he says.



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