The hands-free hectare (HFHa) project has received funding to grow to a 35ha farm.
The aim of the farm, which is located at Harper Adams University, is to be the first in the world to grow, tend and harvest a crop without operators in the driving seats or agronomists on the ground.
The new hands-free farm will be a three-year-long project, run in partnership between Harper Adams and Precision Decisions, along with a new partner; the UK division of Australian precision agriculture specialist Farmscan AG.
The Agricultural Engineering Precision Innovation Centre (Agri-Epi Centre) is providing the team with development space and project management support at its Midlands Agri-Tech Innovation Hub, which is also located on the university’s campus.
“This time, we’re planning to grow three different combinable crops across 35ha,” Jonathan Gill, mechatronics researcher at the university, said. “We’re moving past the feasibility study which the hectare provided us with, to now a vision of the future of farming. We want to prove the capability and ability of these systems in reducing the levels of soil compaction and precision application.”
Smaller is best
The project is using three small tractors, including an ISEKI tractor, a CLAAS combine and a Sampo.
Martin Abell, mechatronics engineer for Precision Decisions, said: “We still believe that smaller vehicles are best. This time, we’re moving away from the perfect hectare and to real-world situations. The fields will be irregular, there’ll be obstacles, undulating land and pathways.
“Precision Decisions will be handling vehicle and data management through our MiFarm platform.”
In addition, there will be an economics output study carried out on the farm.
Watch: researchers working on robotic arable farm