… £50,000 funded research to develop Harry - the agri-tech planting robot...

Shropshire, United Kingdom, 15 March 2018.  

Small Robot Company, a British agritech start-up, today announced it has won a prestigious Horizontal Innovation™ Award from the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) and the High Value Manufacturing Catapult (HVMC), sponsored by Innovate UK.

The Company harnesses the power and precision of robots and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to improve the way that food is produced. The £50,000 funded research award will look to develop ‘Harry’, the company's precision drilling and planting robot, from concept through to in-field prototype.

Addressing key challenges around the use of robotics in agriculture, the development of Harry’s punch planting mechanism will be supported by the Manufacturing Technology Centre, one of seven centres of excellence which make up the High Value Manufacturing Catapult (HVM Catapult), which is sponsored by Innovate UK.

The technology is built on 15 years of robotics research by Professor Simon Blackmore, the world’s leading expert on precision farming at Harper Adams University. Harry has the potential to help farms to increase yields and profits whilst substantially reducing the use of chemicals.

The award allows Small Robot Company to harness the power of manufacturing technologies used in pharmaceuticals and construction to deliver Harry’s precision drilling and planting mechanism

Harry will accurately place seed individually in the ground at a uniform depth to within 2cm accuracy, creating a plant level map showing the location of each seed. A commercial trial is anticipated for October 2018.

“It is a great honour to receive such a highly-regarded industry award. Such prestigious recognition of the work we’re doing to transform farming is game-changing,” says Ben Scott-Robinson, co-founder and experienced entrepreneur. “The MTC’s expertise and development help will be invaluable to get our robots to market. We can now get them working on real farms at scale this growing season. This puts us at the vanguard for future farming.”

“The MTC is delighted to be working with Small Robot Company to assist in the development of Harry into a commercial reality,” says Jeremy Hadall, the MTC’s chief engineer for intelligent automation. “With growing populations and increasing challenges in farming, using ideas and technologies from other sectors will bring about real innovation and transform the way we feed ourselves in the future.  Small Robot Company exemplify the principles of Horizontal Innovation™ through their use of technologies from other sectors to revolutionise farming not just in the UK, but potentially globally.”

“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”.

- Ends -

 Note to Editors

About the Horizontal Innovation™ programme

Horizontal Innovation™ is the effective transfer and application of pre-existing technologies and knowledge from one industrial sector, to help meet a challenge or challenges, in another. The aim is to effectively drive horizontal innovation forward, by reaching out beyond engineering to provide solutions to everyday problems.

The Horizontal Innovation™ programme is the latest in a series of collaborations involving the High Value Manufacturing Catapult and the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET). The Institution and HVM Catapult look to announce details of further awards in due course.

About the IET
The Institution of Engineering and Technology is working to engineer a better world through its worldwide membership of 168,000 engineers and technicians. A Registered Charity in England & Wales, and Scotland, we channel the expertise of our members for the advancement of engineering, and the benefit of society. Gathering intelligence from engineers across the profession, we inspire technology innovation, develop best practice, provide robust, impartial information to key stakeholders, and influence government policy.

For more information, visit

About the High Value Manufacturing Catapult

The High Value Manufacturing Centre (HVMC) is the catalyst for the growth and success of UK advanced manufacturing. Its seven centres offer access to world-class equipment, expertise and collaborative opportunities. The Catapult works with manufacturing businesses of all sizes and from all sectors, turning ideas into commercial applications by addressing the gap between technology concepts and commercialisation. The Catapult is part of a network of ten Catapults, all are sponsored by Innovate UK.

For more information about HVMC, visit

For more information about the Catapults, visit

About the MTC

One of the HVMC’s seven centres of excellence, the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) aims to provide a competitive environment to bridge the gap between university-based research and the development of innovative manufacturing solutions, in line with the Government’s manufacturing strategy.

For more information about the MTC, visit

About Small Robot Company

We are a group of farmers, engineers, scientists and service designers with a deep knowledge farming, robotics, AI and service design. Our technology builds on 15 years’ research by Professor Simon Blackmore, the world’s leading expert in precision farming. 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.

We have been developing our hardware, software and service offering throughout 2017. Our first prototype robot has been built and is successfully working. Field trials are currently in progress in farms in Shropshire. We are currently building the world’s most detailed living data model for our Neural Network to exploit. The first crop we are going to focus our service on is wheat. Our first customers are signed up to use our services from October 2018.

The agri-tech industry accounts for £14.3 billion worth of turnover and more than half a million jobs in the UK alone.