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Cereals 2017: Driverless farming robots could work the fields of the future

PUBLISHED: 15:16 15 June 2017 | UPDATED: 15:16 15 June 2017

The 2017 Cereals show in Boothby Graffoe in Lincolnshire. Pictured: The Anatis crop-weeding robot.

The 2017 Cereals show in Boothby Graffoe in Lincolnshire. Pictured: The Anatis crop-weeding robot.

Archant

Swarms of automated farming robots could hold the key to future productivity and workforce concerns, according to one show exhibitor.

The 2017 Cereals show in Boothby Graffoe in Lincolnshire. Pictured: The Anatis crop-weeding robot.The 2017 Cereals show in Boothby Graffoe in Lincolnshire. Pictured: The Anatis crop-weeding robot.

Demonstrated in the new Fields of the Future zone at the 2017 Cereals show in Lincolnshire was the Anatis machine, made by French company Carré, which is described as a “connected agricultural co-bot”.

Guided by GPS, it trundles between the rows of brassica plants, mechanically removing weeds, while a series of cameras gathers data on the crop plants, counting and measuring them so the operator can plan their management and see any areas of stilted growth which require further attention.

Sean Stanfield, sales director for TRP Imports in Sleaford, said five of the battery-powered machines will be working commercially in France by the end of the year, and he will be taking UK orders for 2019.

“It won’t be long before you have swarms of smaller machines like this in the fields,” he said.

The 2017 Cereals show in Boothby Graffoe in Lincolnshire. Pictured: Sean Stanfield of TRP Imports with the Anatis crop-weeding robot.The 2017 Cereals show in Boothby Graffoe in Lincolnshire. Pictured: Sean Stanfield of TRP Imports with the Anatis crop-weeding robot.

“The field where we are now can be cultivated by one big machine, but 20 years ago it would have been six or seven smaller tractors, and years before that it would have been 20 horses. We’re going back to that.

“A big heavy tractor does a lot of damage to the soil, so we must go to smaller, lighter machines – but we’ll have no-one to drive them.

“At the moment we are predominantly working on brassicas, so overseas labour is a big issue. We’ve got something called Brexit on the way, so where are they going to come from?

“This machine can do the weeding autonomously. The farm managers of the future are going to be running farm operations like this from their office on their iPhone.

“People are not just interested in this because it is new and funky. They are interested because it will help them make more informed decisions on their business.”

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