The Small Robot Company is an agri-tech startup which is commercializing the idea of using small robots and not big tractors in agriculture.
The reason being that tractors are not operating efficiently and are not environmentally friendly.
“Currently, 95% of energy is used ploughing and ploughing is only necessary because of heavy machinery crushing soil.” The start-up claims.
The team have designed and built four different robots in a bid to reduce the overall use of chemicals in agriculture and amount of energy wasted by up to 95%. The robots, Tom, Dick, Harry and Wilma, are capable of seeding and caring for each individual plant themselves, an arable farmers dream come true. The robots are capable of feeding and spraying plants, but only when needed, and are capable of identifying each plants nutritional requirements, thus preventing waste.
“This level of detail allows you to be kinder to soil, kinder to the environment, more efficient, more precise and more productive.” The start-up said.
“It’s the best of all worlds. An increased yield, as well as minimal chemical usage. So you can increase revenues by up to 40%, reduce costs by up to 60%.” They claim.
Video - The Institution of Engineering and Technology
But what do the Robots Do and how can they improve your system -
As mentioned, the Small robot company have developed four agri-bots, Tom, Harry, Dick and Wilma. Each robot has their own specific jobs and features, which you can check out below!
Tom - This robot is focused on crop and soil monitoring to help maximise a farmer’s yields. The robot is capable of monitoring plants on a regular basis, whilst tracking the health and development of each plant. The data is downloaded following an inspection trip by Tom, for use in later analysis. Once out of charge, Tom will return itself to its ‘Kennel’ where it replaces the out of charge battery with a fresh one.
Tom operates alongside one of the other bots, the AI driven operating system Wilma, delivering any information collected on plants. Tom is the go-to bot for all information on a plants and soils health. Check out the video of Tom below, courtesy of The Farmer Forum.
Dick - The next robot designed by the team is Dick, a Precision feeding and weeding robot. This is aimed at saving money on chemicals and protecting the environment. Dick is the robot responsible for protecting your crops and is capable of micro-spraying each individual plant with both fertilisers and chemicals when required. This spraying is done precisely in order to avoid waste and ensure the plant thrives, whilst fertiliser is applied to the roots of plants. Dick is also responsible for weed control and uses non-chemical weed control methods.
It uses three different methods, The first of which is precision micro-spraying. Dick can also burn or crush any weeds it identifies. The benefits from Dick are that is reduces the use and waste of chemicals, protects the environment and ensures your plants are as protected as they can be.
Harry - A precision drilling and planting bot, Harry is the world’s first robotic drill for combinable crops! The robot is capable of placing individual seeds with pin point accuracy, while it can also accurately record where each seed was planted.
Harry also offers pin-point accurate drilling, which causes minimal soil disturbance. It also avoids soil churn and compaction, while it allows farmers to make use of every corner of their field, thus increasing yields. All information is recorded by Harry and then passed onto Wilma, to help create a crop map. AI driven operating system Wilma can also inform Harry if a seed has not germinated and he can precisely replace it.
Wilma - This is the “brain behind the bots” and is an AI driven operating system. Wilma is responsible for extracting information for the crop data model in use, to help farmers make better decisions on their crops. It uses precise up-to-date data collected by Robot Tom, converting it into crop care instructions.
Wilma is a system that allows farmers to gather and analyse all data collected on their crops in one place, taking into account soil science, soil agronomy and market conditions also. For any questions the farmer may have, Wilma will answer.
For those who may think that having robots like these efficiently running your farm may be too expensive, worry not as the robots can also be leased instead of farmers having to purchase them, which can be done through a Farming as a Service (FaaS) model. This really is the future of farming.