This is a time of great challenge, but also great opportunity. Today at its annual Conference, the NFU launches its Future of Food 2040 report. Small Robot Company is honoured to be featured prominently as an example of the cutting-edge technologies that are already being developed.
The countryside has been designed to make existing farm machinery as efficient as possible. It has not been designed to make the plants as productive as possible, or to enable the natural environment to thrive as much as possible. The Digital Farm could change all of that.
When you travel through the countryside in your home country, do you ever stop to think how much of the way it looks is as a result of farm machinery? Of course, the type of farming changes with the landscape but there are very few rural areas in the developed world which are not, in some way, shaped by the machinery that we use to manage our farms.
It’s been a tremendous year for our small robots. Not even a year ago, we launched our Small Robot concept at an Oxford Farming Conference fringe event. Here, I introduced our Tom, Dick and Harry farming robots to the farming community. I unveiled our Farming as a Service concept, explaining how our robots will farm arable crops autonomously, with no waste.
We have made phenomenal progress. Today, we have three prototype robots, three patents pending and an AI that can already distinguish Wheat from Weeds. We are in trials in 20 farms across the UK, including the Waitrose Leckford Estate farm and The National Trust Wimpole Estate farm.
The Small Robot Company has partnered with the NFU for its awesome Farmvention competition, which aims to inspire young children into becoming interested in agriculture.
The competition also took a particular look at compaction issues, challenging children to design ‘tractors of the future’ and solve this problem. The perfect fit for us - we had to get involved!
It's been a really good innings for Small Robot Company news in recent weeks! 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!
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.