…World exclusive showcase of prototype farmbot, plus preview of design for ‘Harry’ digital planting robot...
Small Robot Company, a British agritech start-up, today announced a showcase of its prototype Rachael robot at the GREAT Festival of Innovation in Hong Kong. The premier showcase for British innovation in Asia, the festival is run by the Department for International Trade.
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.
Small Robot Company’s prototype Rachael embodies all the core technology needed for its forthcoming Tom, Dick and Harry arable farmbots. This includes autonomy, geolocation, obstacle avoidance, navigation and the ability to accurately position objects on a map within 2 centimetres.
In addition Small Robot Company will preview the design for its ‘Harry’ robot, a digital planting robot for arable crops. Harry will accurately place seed individually in the ground at a uniform depth to within 2cm accuracy. This will create a plant level map showing the location of each seed, enabling farming to be digitised. Harry’s commercial trial is anticipated for October 2018.
“Small Robot Company is both proud to represent Great Britain, and excited to explore how we can provide an arable crop service that brings benefit across the world. Rice remains the single most important food crop globally. But labour shortages, chemical overuse and improving yield are all ongoing difficulties,” said Ben Scott-Robinson, co-founder, Small Robot Company.
“Robotics has the potential to solve these problems. We want to use this opportunity to starting working with rice farmers to evolve and develop a service that answers their needs, in the same way we have been working with wheat farmers in the UK. Being able to provide precision and automation for rice would not just be a step forward in farming, it will revolutionise agriculture for half the world’s population.”
The first crop that Small Robot Company will focus on is wheat, with its service later to be extended to other arable crops such as rice and soya.
“There are several challenges with rice production that we hope to help solve. Firstly, labour. Urban migration is causing shortages and the age of the average rice farmer is steadily rising; many are near retirement,” continues Ben. “Secondly, the environment. Overuse of chemicals is endemic. And fertiliser usage is 75% higher and pesticide 40% in China than the global average for rice production. Thirdly, yield. Growing world population means a 25% leap in rice yield is required by the year 2025. Meanwhile crop diversification, industrialisation and urbanisation have caused a 19% reduction in the land area farmed for rice in the last 40 years.”
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 Department for International Trade
The Department for International Trade (DIT) is a UK Government department working with businesses based in the United Kingdom to ensure their success in international markets, and encourage the best overseas companies to look to the UK as their global partner of choice.
Trade and Investment has never been more important to the country’s economic prospects.
The Department for International Trade helps British companies of all sizes to grow their business through international trade by offering expert advice and practical support through a range of programmes. It also connects businesses to the world’s top commercial opportunities and drives targeted campaigns centred around them.
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 initial focus for our service is arable crops. Our first customers are signed up to use our services from October 2018.
Agritech robotic service
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.