…Three prototype robots and initial artificial intelligence achieved within one year of launch...
Small Robot Company, a British agritech start-up for sustainable farming, today announced it has won The Drum Social Purpose Awards. It won the prestigious awards in the Best Use of Technology Category category on account of the positive social impact and environmental benefits of its technology. The company is reimagining farming with robots and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to improve the way that food is produced, reducing its cost on the environment.
Small Robot Company will make farms more profitable, and increase yield and efficiency, through using small robots instead of tractors. Its arable farming robots Tom, Dick and Harry will enable farmers to be kinder to soil, kinder to the environment, more efficient, more precise and more productive. It will also reduce chemical usage and cultivation energy in arable farming by up to 95%.
Just one year on from its launch, the company already has three prototype robots, and an early version of the artificial intelligence. Field trials are currently in progress in 20 farms across the United Kingdom, including the National Trust Wimpole Estate.
The award follows Small Robot Company’s win earlier this year of the AbilityNet Tech4Good Awards. It won the prestigious BT Connected Society category on account of the positive social impact and environmental benefits of its technology.
“We’re thrilled at such prestigious recognition for our work to create the ultimate sustainable farming model. With our robots we will be able to produce an abundance of food with minimal environmental impact. Feeding the world, without costing the earth,” says Small Robot Company co-founder Ben Scott-Robinson. “Agriculture is one of the biggest global polluters, costing the economy up to $800 billion per year for fertiliser run off alone. The current farming system is wasteful on an industrial scale. Unfortunately, if you treat the whole field the same, waste is inevitable. A more ecologically harmonious way of farming is vital for the future of our planet.”
Smart Farming with Artificial Intelligence
Using artificial intelligence, IoT and cloud technologies, Small Robot Company’s robots work alongside AI ‘nervous system’ Wilma to ‘digitise the field’ and provide a granular digital view of the farm. The robots will only feed and spray the plants that need it, giving them the perfect levels nutrients and support, with no waste. This will minimise chemical usage in farming by up to 95%.
Following extensive field trials, and artificial intelligence training with partner Cosmonio over the last six months, Wilma can already distinguish Wheat plants from ‘Not-Wheat’, meaning any images of items that are not wheat plants.
Small Robot Company developed its prototype robot Harry, unveiled earlier this month, with a prestigious Horizontal Innovation™ Award from the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) and the High Value Manufacturing Catapult (HVMC).
“We’re making phenomenal progress with our mission to deliver ecologically harmonious, efficient and sustainable farming. Just one year on from our foundation, we are already geared up to deliver early prototypes for trial in 2019,” said Sam Watson Jones, co-founder of Small Robot Company and a fourth generation Shropshire farmer. “This will entirely change what’s possible on the farm, and how we think about farming. Ultimately, it’s permaculture at scale.”
“Feeding an estimated extra 2.2 billion people living on planet earth by 2050 is going to be one of the biggest challenges we face in the future,” says Alan Howard, the IET’s Design and Manufacturing Lead. “This brilliant idea from Small Robot Company, with its ingenious application of robotics and automation technologies, could provide a vital and secure source of food to help feed the world”.
About Small Robot Company
Small Robot Company is working to maximise food production while reducing its cost on the environment. We are a group of farmers, engineers, scientists and service designers with a deep knowledge farming, robotics, AI and service design. We are dedicated to building technology that will make farming profitable, more efficient and more environmentally friendly. We are building a farming service designed by farmers for farmers that uses robotics and AI to deliver this dream. Our technology builds on 15 years’ research by Professor Simon Blackmore, the world’s leading expert in precision farming at Harper Adams university. Our three small robots Tom Dick and Harry will seed, feed and weed arable crops autonomously, with minimal waste.
We have been developing our hardware, software and service offering throughout 2017. Our three prototype robots have been built and initial artificial intelligence achieved. Field trials are currently in progress in 20 farms across the United Kingdom, including the National Trust Wimpole Estate. We are currently building the world’s most detailed living data model for our Neural Network to exploit. The initial focus for our service is arable crops.
Non-exec directors include Tom Hume, robotics expert at X (formerly called Google [x]).
Hear more about our company and see our prototype monitoring robot in action in this video here, made by the Institute of Engineering and Technology.
Agri-tech robotic service
Small Robot Company offers its robots through a Farming as a Service (FaaS) model, which is both a hardware and a software service for farmers. Farmers pay a per hectare subscription fee for a robotic hardware service which digitises the farm, and delivers crop care at per-plant precision.
The robots take care of all the feeding, seeding, and weeding autonomously. They will only feed and spray the plants that need it, giving them the perfect levels nutrients and support, with no waste. The full service will comprise:
Tom, crop and soil monitoring robot
Dick, precision spraying and laser weeding robot
Harry, precision drilling and planting robot
Wilma, the operating system
The AI-driven neural network
Small Robot Company recently won a prestigious Horizontal Innovation™ Award from the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) and the High Value Manufacturing Catapult (HVMC) to develop its Harry digital planting robot prototype technology.
The agri-tech industry accounts for £14.3 billion worth of turnover and more than half a million jobs in the UK alone.
The cost of fertiliser run-off amounts $200-$800bn a year, according to the United Nations Development Programme.
On behalf of Small Robot Company