This year’s National Ploughing Championships in Ratheniska, Co Laois, marks the 91st edition of the three-day event and the 67th anniversary of the World Ploughing Contest.

As always, this year’s event continued to be a big shop window for Ireland's machinery importers and manufacturers.

Every year as part of the three-day exhibition, one machine is awarded machine of the year by the National Ploughing Association (NPA). Claiming the title this year was the FarmDroid FD20 solar-powered robot.

'First of its kind'

Dubbed as the first of its kind in the world, the FarmDroid FD20 was showcased for the first time in Ireland by the recently appointed Irish distributor IAM Agricultural Machinery, based in Kilkenny.

The solar-powered robot is designed to reduce the cost of sowing and weed control, while doing it CO2-neutrally and pesticide-free.

Using GPS, the FarmDroid sows the crops in the field and marks precisely where every single seed has been placed. It doubles up to perform precise non-chemical mechanical weed control, both between the rows and inter-row.

The FD20 is capable of covering up to 900m/hr. The unit weighs in at 800kg.

Four solar panels on top of the robot produce power for two lithium batteries which ensure up to 24 hours operation daily. This means you do not need to charge the batteries externally.

The FD20 can operate non-stop for 24 hours, stopping only when batteries are flat. Once batteries are flat, the brakes are applied until the sun rises and starts recharging the batteries.

According to the Danish manufacturer, one robot can seed and weed 20ha per season under optimal conditions. According to the Irish importer, which has plans to demonstrate the unit this autumn, prices start from €95,000 plus VAT.