Shropshire, United Kingdom, 15 May 2018
Small Robot Company, a British agritech start-up for sustainable farming, today launches its public Indiegogo campaign to fund its digital planting robot Harry. The company harnesses the power and precision of robots and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to improve the way that food is produced and minimise chemical usage.
The 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%.
The Small Robot Company is seeking £50,000 backing on Indiegogo to commercialise Harry, its digital planting robot. Harry recently won a prestigious Horizontal Innovation™ Award from the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) and the High Value Manufacturing Catapult (HVMC) to develop the prototype technology.
However, additional funding is needed to accelerate development in order to hold commercial trials this growing season in October 2018.
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. By punch-planting rather than ploughing, Harry will also radically reduce soil run off and associated water pollution.
“We want to revolutionise the way that technology is used to create food, reducing its terrible cost on the environment,” says co-founder and entrepreneur Ben Scott-Robinson. “Current arable farming methods, in particular ploughing and blanket spraying, are extremely harmful to the environment. Unfortunately, if you treat the whole field the same, overuse of chemicals is inevitable. So we are transforming farming with robots and artificial intelligence.”
Digitising the field with Artificial Intelligence
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%.
Its precision farming technology allows a level of autonomy, accuracy and detail that now makes it possible to provide precise care on a per plant basis, and for 10x better decision making. It 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.
Eventually, each process - from knowing when to plant, to all aspects of crop care, to knowing when to harvest - will be automated.
Our vision is to automate and digitise arable crop farming,” says co-founder Sam Watson Jones, a fourth generation farmer. “Farming is arguably the last analogue industry. The potential for efficiency here is phenomenal, and the environmental benefits this then bestows are immense. Simply put, it's the ability to apply permaculture techniques at scale. It’s the ultimate sustainable farming model.”
“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
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
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.
On behalf of Small Robot Company