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Gardening & Agriculture Gardening & Agriculture General

Small Robot Company uses artificial intelligence and robots to revolutionize farming

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by: Ariana M
Small Robot Company uses artificial intelligence and robots to revolutionize farming

On July 17th AbilityNet has announced the winners of their Tech4Good Awards – an award that celebrates people and companies that are using digital tech to make a world a better place. Naturally, I was super excited when one of my personal favourites – Small Robot Company – won the BTGroup Connected Society Award and I would love to share their innovative approach with other sustainability and tech enthusiasts here on WhatsOrb.         

Small Robot Company is a UK start-up that aims to revolutionize farming by combining the power of AI and robots. According to their website, their technology will allow farmers to increase their revenues by 40% and reduce their costs by 60%. But it is not all about the profit – Small Robot Company’s main goal is to make farming more sustainable.

When size really matters

Research shows that currently 95% of cultivation energy in arable farming is used on ploughing – and the only reason ploughing is necessary is because of the heavy machinery that is used in the fields. Big tractors crush the soil and are overall inefficient and not environmentally friendly.

On the other hand, small robots are very light and don’t squish the soil (and worms). This improves soil health and root growth and allows for a reduction of fertilizer usage by a whopping 90%! Small size also allows the robots to be powered by electricity and with many farmers already investing in solar panels these little helpers can become self sufficient.

The little experts in their fields

Tom, Harry, Dick and Wilma are the ones tasked with changing the farming the way we know it. And no, they aren’t farming consultants – they are the robots that will take care of the fields and monitor the plants’ needs.

Tom is the one that lives on the farm and is constantly checking on the crop and soil. He can keep an eye our for weeds, monitor health and development of each plant and suggest what fertiliser and chemicals you need to maximise your crop. Tom creates a digital map of the field and when he returns to his “Kennel” to recharge he shares this data with Wilma.

Wilma is the AI driven operating system and the heart and brain of the whole system. She is the one who can analyse the data that Tom has collected and develop care instructions based on her extensive farming knowledge. Wilma bases her suggestions on agronomy, soil science and even market conditions – this helps farmers make the best decisions about their crops. When the farmer gives Wilma permission to proceed with her plan, she sends our Dick and Harry to take care of the field.

Harry is the first robotic drill for combinable crops. He is the one who will place individual sees and record exactly where he has planted them. Harry is incredibly precise in everything he does and can even replace an individual seed if Wilma tells him that it hasn’t germinated!

Last of the bunch is Dick. Dick is the one who takes care of the plants themselves – he micro-sprays them with fertilizers or chemicals and does the weeding. Like Harry, he is also very precise, which helps him minimize the use of chemicals. This makes a huge difference for the environment, wildlife and the quality of our food.

Together, the four of them make up a farming dream team. Their unique strengths allow for an incredible degree of accuracy in plant treatment and monitoring that was simply impossible to achieve with traditional tools.

A modern approach to an ancient practice

Farming is one of the most analogue industries out there and while some are focusing on modernizing agricultural trade, Small Robot Company is arguably one of the first to attempt digitizing the fields. Their innovative technology can help farmers become better at what they do and make the industry more sustainable and productive. And we as consumers will also benefit from this – these robots help make produce safer and more ethical. 

Small Robot Company is planning to offer their robots through a “Farming as a Service” model. This way farmers can reduce their risks and pay only for the actual work that the robots perform rather than the equipment itself. The company is planning to have the service up and running within 3 years’ time and personally I cannot wait to see these hard workers in the fields!

Do you think these robots can become the future of agriculture? Let us know in the comments!

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