Shropshire, United Kingdom, 26 April 2018
Small Robot Company, a British agritech start-up, today announced that its Wilma artificial intelligence ‘nervous system’ is a finalist for Computing’s Big Data Excellence Awards. The awards celebrate the top performers working at the forefront of data, analytics, the Internet of Things and Big Data.
The Small Robot Company harnesses the power and precision of robots and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to improve the way that food is produced and minimise chemical usage.
Wilma will work alongside Small Robot Company’s arable farming robots Tom, Dick and Harry to provide a granular digital view of the farm. This will enable farmers to be kinder to soil, kinder to the environment, more efficient, more precise and more productive.
Wilma is the brains of the operation. Built on Canonical’s cutting edge Ubuntu Internet of Things operating system, she draws upon a comprehensive big data crop model for all her decision-making. With Wilma, farmers can look at the data as it comes in from the field to make 10x better decisions. Robust per-plant data creates a ‘profit map’ that shows which areas of field to use, what to plant where and when, and which to use for ‘set aside’ biodiversity subsidy.
“Technology has changed almost every industry - but farming is still stuck on analogue. We want to digitise the field,” says Ben Scott-Robinson, co-founder, Small Robot Company. “The fully-fledged digital farm will comprise a broad ecosystem encompassing robotics, drones, autonomous vehicles, big data and artificial intelligence. Wilma’s potential for efficiency is phenomenal. Simply put, she means the ability to apply permaculture techniques at scale.”
“Interconnected systems of many small interventions together can have a massive impact,” says Kevin Burrowes, Head of Clients and Markets, PwC. “Small companies are often the ones that change industries. Disruption is driven by agility and an alternative outlook; it’s not about avoiding the downside, but mapping the opportunity.”
“Small Robot Company’s approach is significantly different to the typical ‘big company’ approach of automation or extension of existing systems. Digitisation, enabled by robotics, unlocks the potential for exponential improvements in the farmer’s ability to collect, process and act on data. Every industry is subject to disruption and digital transformation and agriculture is no exception.”
Digitising the field with Artificial Intelligence
Small Robot Company’s AI-driven technology allows a level of autonomy, accuracy and detail that will make it possible for smaller farms to be profitable. Wilma will take in the sum of all farming knowledge, including agronomy, soil science and market conditions, coupled with aggregated big data from all farms across the country, and apply it to the information gathered about the crop.
Wilma will know exactly where each individual plant is, and monitor it to provide precise care on a per plant basis. With Wilma’s guidance, 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%.
Eventually, each process - from knowing when to plant, to all aspects of crop care, to knowing when to harvest - will be automated.
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 robot prototype technology.
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 at Harper Adams university. 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 and Hampshire. 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. Our first customers are signed up to use our services from October 2018.
Non-exec directors include Tom Hume, robotics expert at X (formerly called Google [x]).
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
The agri-tech industry accounts for £14.3 billion worth of turnover and more than half a million jobs in the UK alone.
On behalf of Small Robot Company