A fully autonomous, solar-powered robot capable of precision drilling and weeding was on display at Cereals this year.
Using ultra-accurate GPS to record exactly where each seed is placed, the machine is able to offer chemical-free weed control with no fuel bills.
This approach means that unlike other robotic machines, it doesn’t require banks of high-definition cameras and complex computers to target weeds.
Weighing about 950kg, FarmDroid is kitted out with in-row and inter-row weeding action, and is capable of working within 6mm of each seedling between the rows and 20mm in the row.
FarmDroid is distributed in the UK by Opico. Its after-sales director Angus Steven said: “Once the machine has finished its seeding operations, it can be reconfigured into a blind weeding operation before crop emergence.
“After germination, it can then be set up to weed between the rows with a weeding knife.”
Organic growers in the UK and Europe using the robot have reported increases in beet yields of 40-60%, compared with tractor-hoed crops.
This is due to the combination of precise seed placement and intra-row weed control leading to more uniform crop development.
The savings in herbicides, fuel, labour and machinery costs help the finances stack up.
The current six-row FarmDroid FD20 retails at £59,500, plus £4,243 for an RTK base station.