Farmer Jamie Butler tests an autonomous robot on his farm

Faced with falling product prices, the need for greater efficiency and respect for the environment, farmer Jamie Butler is testing an autonomous robot on his farm.

This new technology operator will be responsible for detecting weeds and pests on his 250-hectare winter wheat field, located in the countryside of Hampshire, England.

The four-wheeled robot, nicknamed “Tom”, combines GPS technology, artificial intelligence and Smartphone technology to digitally map the field. It was developed by Small Robot Company, a start-up company operating in the agro-technology sector.

Tom will check each plant and treat any diseases individually. This is an almost impossible task for a farmer who can tire quickly.

The objective is to significantly reduce the use of fertilizers and pesticides in order to reduce costs and increase farmers’ profitability. The robot will therefore be able to help them economically and reduce the environmental impact of its activity.

In 2019, the start-up company plans to test two other robots called Dick and Harry, both controlled by an artificial intelligence system.

The first, Dick, will carry the fertilizer directly into the soil around the roots, instead of spraying it on the unnecessary surface. Harry will insert the seeds into the soil with uniform depth and spacing. This avoids the use of tractors to dig furrows.

To help farmers who are reluctant to invest heavily in equipment, Small Robot Company plans to sell its services on a monthly subscription basis at a price of £600 per hectare annually.