Running a farm business to date has always necessitated giving up a certain amount freedom or accepting certain restrictions. There are geographical restrictions, time restrictions, financial restrictions, machinery restrictions, access to market restrictions and so on…
It's been a really good innings for Small Robot Company news in recent weeks!
Firstly, do take a look at this video from the IET which explains how Small Robot Company is revolutionising food production - you can also see our prototype robot Rachael in action.
The video showcases our winning of the prestigious Horizontal Innovation Award from the IET and the High Value Manufacturing Catapult (HVMC), which is enabling us to develop ‘Harry’, our drilling and planting robot.
Harry will accurately place seeds individually in the ground at a uniform depth to within 2cm accuracy, creating a plant level map showing the location of each seed.
By punch-planting rather than ploughing, Harry will also radically reduce soil run off and associated water pollution. Thanks to this funding, an early prototype of Harry will be delivered this autumn, which we will exhibit at Croptec. Do come and visit Harry there!
Next up, we have also successfully achieved our Indiegogo funding goal. With this funding we can commercialise our Harry robot, getting him into the field for commercial trials, and bringing us closer to our goal of creating a sustainable farming system.
Commercial field trials of our robotics will be starting on our pilot farms in the next
Finally, we won AbilityNet's Tech4Good awards, in the extremely prestigious BT Connected Society category. This was awarded to us on account of the social impact and environmental benefits of our robotics service.
The fantastic additional benefit in the Tech4Good award is that this includes a partnership with BT's InfinityLabs to help us accelerate our development. Watch this space!
Sharing these updates allows both the team and myself here at Small Robot Company, a very welcome opportunity to thank those of you that have supported us over the last few months and been so steadfastly behind the evolution of our 3 Small Robots!
We. Love. Small.
A well run farm is a wonderful template for a good business, primarily because farmers care
deeply about what they do and are unrelentingly long term with their perspective.
If it were possible (or desirable) to use gene selection techniques to create a series of ideal business owners, people who would run good businesses in a responsible way that made the world a better place, you could do a lot worse than choosing many of the characteristics inherent to most farmers.
You are living on the edge of the greatest change that farming has ever seen.
If you have read some of my previous posts, you will have heard me mention the significance of digitisation.
Today, I even had the opportunity to speak on BBC Radio 5Live’s Wake Up to Money programme about it (click through on the link below - I am on at 20 mins into the programme)
Every year as farmers we do something really pretty silly; we carry out work in our fields that costs us more money than we make from it.
This mind boggling fact was first pointed out to me by Sebastian Graff-Baker at Andersons a few months ago when I first discussed the idea of robotic farming as a service and it has been nagging away at me ever since. The problem is this; we acquire full knowledge too late.
Please join me in a celebratory whisky toast this Burns Night, and make it a toast to the future of farming - 2018 will be a great year for the industry!
We are on the verge of the next farming revolution. Arguably the last analogue industry, farming is at last set to go digital.
The first definitive steps to digitalisation will happen in 2018. The technology will be commercialised within three to five years and mainstream at scale within ten...
This week I spoke at the Oxford Farming Conference, delivering a workshop in the fringe event on the first day of the conference.
The main theme of the conference this year is Embracing Change, and there were a number of interesting perspectives on this articulated at the conference. My own experience is that farmers do, in general, embrace change. However, whilst the pace of change in farming is increasing, it is still too slow...
The EU has thrown a spanner in the works on glyphosates. EU countries have voted to renew the licence of glyphosate; but while farmers were pushing for 15 year renewal, instead it’s gone for five. Farmers have welcomed the extension, but with only five years its future use still remains uncertain.
The commission has dismissed the carcinogenic concerns, citing insufficient scientific evidence. But other scientists disagree, so that doesn’t allay current concerns. Consumers are still going to be worried about contamination of the human foodchain. Its toxicity is reckoned to be low, but the Soil Association has regularly found traces in bread.
As a farmer, I want people to believe that food is safe to eat; and I’m also keen to play my part as a custodian of the land. In our hands is the future of the soil, and the future of food.
Six years ago, I left the City and took over my family farm.
The big thing that’s been keeping me awake since then is profit.
Farms are getting less profitable. Revenues and yields for combinable crops have remained steadily flat for quarter of a century. Margins are static at 1-4% per annum. But production costs keep going up - and so do prices for big, expensive, machinery.
This week I gave a sneak preview of Small Robot Company in the start-up showcase at Agri-Tech REAP conference. It was fantastic to have the opportunity to talk at the conference, which was run by Agri-Tech East. I’m a big fan of Belinda Clarke’s work with Agri-Tech East - I’ve worked with her before and the aims of the REAP Conference match very closely with our beliefs at Small Robot Company and what we are trying to achieve.