UK’s first commercially available robotic tractor in operation on Suffolk farm

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Danish agri-tech company Agrointelli has delivered its first robotic implement-carrier to a UK farm.

The Robotti system, which can be used for various tasks such as weeding and sowing, has been deployed at organic vegetable producer Home Farm Nacton, in Suffolk.

According to the farm, the investment was made to solve the challenge of sourcing seasonal labour.

Andrew Williams, farm director at Home Farm Nacton, said: “A large amount of our produce is organic, so we are increasingly limited in how we can control weeds.

“Chemical application is repetitive work, as is manual weeding, and sourcing seasonal, overseas labour is becoming increasingly difficult.

“We wanted to future-proof the farm and Robotti is perfectly suited to our set-up.”

Robotti 150D is the first robotic implement-carrier introduced in the UK and is now fully operational on the Home Farm Nacton estate

The Robotti 150D has now been in operation on the 1,940ha (4,793-acre) farm since mid-April, weeding a number of vegetable crops using a harrow attachment.

Carrying the tool attachments in its centre, the robot is built to evenly distribute the weight across all four wheels.

The autonomous solution features GPS mapping technology enabling it to follow pre-programmed planned routes in the field at speeds of up to 3mph, and 5mph where permitted.

It has two Kubota 75hp diesel or bio fuel engines; the left engine propels the machine and powers the conventional 3-point hitch, meaning it can be fitted with standard implements and perform multiple tasks in the field throughout the season.

The right engine drives the PTO. Each engine takes 110 litres of fuel, which is enough for the machine to run continuously for approximately 24 hours.

Williams added: There is a long window of opportunity for it to make a difference in the crucial weeding stages of the crops, fitting well into our cropping plan.

“It does exactly what we need, moving soil in the early stage of growth with guaranteed precision.

“It will initially be used for weeding this year, but we also plan to use it for topping and drilling in the future, maybe even transplanting.”

According to Agrointelli, it took approximately 10 minutes to map a four-acre field at Home Farm Nacton, and a further 10 minutes to log the weeding plan into the system.

What’s more, access to the online Robotti portal provides real-time updates of the machine’s progress.

“I am able to check the progress of crop growth at any location within that field, without having to walk to see it,” said Williams.

“The portal tells me how much fuel is in the tank, how many hours it has done, and how much time it has left before the fuel runs out.

“It will also tell me when it’s finished one field, so I can ensure it’s taken to the next field to start its new job.”

Home Farm Nacton was introduced to Agrointelli through Fram Farmers, a farmer-owned inputs purchasing and crop marketing business, providing the purchasing, grain marketing and administrative function for over 1,0400 farming businesses across the UK.

Gordon Cummings, machinery manager of Fram Farmers, said: “The demand for autonomous tractors has been around a long time, and we’re delighted to have been involved in bringing this to the UK for Andrew and the team at Home Farm Nacton.”

The Robotti 150D is one of 50 robots that will be working in Europe by the end of the year.

Learn more about argi-robotics in the April 2021 issue of Robotics & Innovation:

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