Sir Ian Cheshire recommends that farming undertakes a 10 year transition to agroecology - here’s how Tom, Dick and Harry can help

Sir Ian Cheshire recommends that farming undertakes a 10 year transition to agroecology - here’s how Tom, Dick and Harry can help

The RSA recently delivered a two year independent report, led by Sir Ian Cheshire, outlining a way forward for the UK’s farming industry as we prepare to leave the European Union. The report, titled Our Future in the Land, recommends a ten year transition to agroecology - developing a farming system which is focused on regenerating soil health and reducing our reliance as an industry on chemicals.

Sir Ian was kind enough to reference Tom, Dick and Harry in his interview on the Today programme (1hr20mins in), outlining the recommendations from the report. Indeed, we share his vision for a better future for our farms - here’s how we think our technology can help.

A New Model for Farm Management

A New Model for Farm Management

The farm management profession is something that has been created and enabled by mechanisation. The realisation that the activity of owning the land could be separated from the activity of farming the land was the mindset shift it needed to grow into the multi-billion dollar worldwide industry it is today, but it could not have happened without the mechanisation of farming.

Farm Ambition - Farm with vision. With clarity. With confidence.

Farm Ambition  - Farm with vision. With clarity. With confidence.

It has never been more important for farmers to think of themselves as entrepreneurs.

There is a point in the story of every farm where an entrepreneur got things started. At some stage, the farm went from zero to one - the family business didn’t exist, and then it did. There are some farmers still operating today where they provided the entrepreneurial spark which got things started, but for many of us the truly entrepreneurial activity on our farms happened some time ago, often several generations ago.

Living with Robots – a human’s guide to Human/Robot Interaction

Living with Robots – a human’s guide to Human/Robot Interaction

Human Robotic Interaction is a field so new you can’t do a degree in it. The rules haven’t been established. There are no government guidelines. There are no agencies offering this as a service. There are just a few companies building robots that are trying to understand the enormous implications of living with robots.

Tomorrow we are undertaking a groundbreaking design hackathon with the John Lewis Partnership and leading strategic design consultancy Method, alongside the Turing Institute, the Manufacturing Technology Centre, and Zoa robotics. Working together to create a blueprint for robotics in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Reconnecting with the Soil @Groundswellaguk

Reconnecting with the Soil @Groundswellaguk

This week I am speaking at the Groundswell, a great show and conference in the UK which aims to re-focus farmers on their core asset - the soil. Preparing for my speaking slot on the first day of the conference has got me thinking.

On the wall of my office on our farm in Shropshire, there is an old tithe map from the 1840s. I’ve always found old maps and farm history fascinating - it’s amazing to consider where we have come from, and equally amazing to consider where we have ended up…

Then I thought about how we manage it today.

To Boldly Go: Small Robots Make a Great Leap Into the Science Museum! #LondonTechWeek

To Boldly Go: Small Robots Make a Great Leap Into the Science Museum! #LondonTechWeek

How are Robots With AI Being Used in the Space Industry?

We were extremely honoured to see our very own Small Robot Tom installed in a new Tomorrow’s World Exhibition in the Science Museum: Driverless - who is in control? With a special shout out for our robots and their Robot Gin from Sir Ian Blatchford, Director General of the Science Museum, in his opening speech for the exhibition, what a London Tech Week this has been for us!

Walking through the Space gallery, with its awe-inspiring monuments to the Apollo missions, leading then to Driverless and our own little MarsRover-inspired robot, this got me wondering about the next small steps for mankind. With such rapid pace in robotics in Land, Sea and Air so enrapturingly captured by this thought-provoking exhibition - what’s the next frontier?

Changing the conversation about farming with #WorldEnvironmentDay

Changing the conversation about farming with #WorldEnvironmentDay

On World Environment Day, I’d like to take a look at the future for farming and the environment. Last year I went to a very interesting public debate on this topic. As is typical with these things, the set up was a deliberately dramatised “farmer vs environmentalist” show.
The two speakers from the “environment” camp laid out articulate and it would seem well-evidenced arguments about ways in which they felt that farming, in its current form, was damaging the environment. To summarise their case: chemicals and fertiliser residues are appearing in places that they shouldn’t be; beneficial insect populations are declining, as are the populations of many other species which use farmland as their main habitats; huge monocultures created by intensive farming are having a negative impact on the biodiversity of our countryside; soil health is suffering.

How can we use Robotics and Artificial Intelligence to save our soil? #EarthDay

How can we use Robotics and Artificial Intelligence to save our soil? #EarthDay

Soil is one of the world’s most relied upon natural resources and it is also one of the most under discussed and undervalued.

Think about it; in the last year, how many articles did you read or conversations did you have about water or air pollution compared to articles about poor soil health?

Degrading soil health is much more difficult to notice and it does not have an immediately obvious negative impact on those of us who are not farmers, unlike bad quality water or air, so it commands much less attention.

What will farms and food production look like in twenty years’ time?

What will farms and food production look like in twenty years’ time?

This is a key question that we continually ask ourselves at Small Robot Company. We did not set out as a business to try to find the fastest way to make ourselves rich. We set out to create a really clear vision for the way that food production could and should be better than it is today and now we are trying to build the organisation that is going to make our vision a reality.

Reputation Capital could be one of the most valuable assets that farmers own in the future.

Ultimately blockchain will enable the disintermediation of the food supply chain, increasing transparency and shortening the distance between grower and consumer. This will represent a radical change in the industry and I believe a truly positive one for both farmer and consumer.
 

And this is where Reputation Capital becomes so important....

The farmer will be able to build up a reputation for their farming ethos, the way they make use of the new digital tools of the future (such as those being created by Small Robot Company) and the quality of their output.

Nitrogen pollution from farm fertilisers is a huge global problem.

We know, as farmers, that we waste about 40% of the
fertiliser we apply to our crops....


How are we thinking about this problem? Are we doing enough as an industry in our current efforts to limit the damage of nitrogen pollution? Could technology in the form of new hardware and software provide a solution that radically reduces this problem for future generations?

In the video below, Small Robot Company's Co-Founder; Sam Watson Jones raises these questions - please do drop us a line or a comment with your thoughts on this....
 

A Re-Design of the Countryside in the Wake of the Digital Farm

A Re-Design of the Countryside in the Wake of the Digital Farm

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.

Fuelled by the OFC: one year on from Oxford

Fuelled by the OFC: one year on from Oxford

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.