Coventry robotics engineers help launch AI-enabled ‘farmbots’

The Coventry-based Manufacturing Technology Centre has helped develop digitally-controlled, artficial intelligence-enabled robots for use in the farming industry.

Alongside the Small Robot Company, based in Hampshire, the robotics engineers at MTC set out to “revolutionise” farming, following a £1.2m crowdfunding initiative, as well as MTC itself and Innovate UK.

The “farmbots” they developed are able to plant, feed and weed arable crops autonomously. The organisation says they improve food production and minimise chemical use, making farms more profitable. It says they could replace tractors for many jobs.

Jeremy Hadall, chief engineer for intelligent automation at the MTC, said the technology had the potential to make significant improvements in farm productivity and profitability.

“We are delighted to be working with the Small Robot Company, developing the company’s precision drilling and planting robot, which has the potential to improve yields, and therefore profits, while substantially reducing the use of chemicals.

“The technology harnesses manufacturing advances used in traditional manufacturing industries and allows exceptional accuracy, while creating a map showing the location of each seed,” he said.

“With growing populations and increasing challenges in farming, using ideas and technologies from other sectors will bring about real innovation and transform the way we feed ourselves in the future,” he added.

Ben Scott-Robinson, co-founder of the Small Robot Company said, “The MTC’s expertise and development help is invaluable to get our robots to market. We have been able to get them working on real farms at scale, which puts us in the vanguard for farming in the future.”

The MTC was founded by the University of Birmingham, Loughborough University, the University of Nottingham and TWI Ltd. The MTC’s industrial members include some of the UK’s major global manufacturers. It is part the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, supported by Innovate UK.

Pictured: Small Robot Company co-founder Sam Watson Jones, Andrew Hoad of the Leckford Estate and Joe Allnutt, Small Robot Company.