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A Revolution in Arable Agriculture Made in England?

Martin Gillie
By Martin Gillie

Just over the border at West Dean in Wiltshire is the “Small Robot Company”- founded by a farmer for farmers.  For a small company they have some big ideas on how to revolutionise arable agriculture.

Their aim is to eliminate weed-killers, stop soil compaction cut fertiliser use dramatically, enable more diversified planting in fields and eliminate ploughing.

The company is designing small robots whose first task will be to photograph every plant in a field with its precise location.  Artificial Intelligence (AI) will then identify weeds from crop plants.  A second robot will then kill the weeds with an electric charge that literally fries the weed down to its roots so that it cannot grow back. The first trials of these two robots are about to take place.  If successful they would form the first part of the income stream for the Small Robot Company.

Big machine companies are now designing ever bigger tractors that weigh over 40 tonnes – imagine what that does to the soil! The impact of the small robot would be the same or less than a man walking across the field, so soil compaction is virtually eliminated. The small robot would fit into a transit van.

Small Robot Company

The second phase would be to design a robot to plant individual seeds in precisely the right place (no ploughing needed) and then by using the first robot to photograph the individual plants – carry out a health check to see if any precise treatment plant by plant is needed. This would cut fertiliser and pesticide use dramatically and eradicate random spraying.

The company will need more capital to survive but have the backing of over 100 farmers already so watch this space!

Here’s a link to their website: