Small Robot Company premieres its Rachael robot at great festival of innovation in Hong Kong

World exclusive showcase of prototype farmbot, plus preview of design for ‘Harry’ digital planting robot…

Small Robot Company, a British agritech start-up, today announced a showcase of its prototype Rachael robot at the GREAT Festival of Innovation in Hong Kong. The premier showcase for British innovation in Asia, the festival is run by the Department for International Trade.

The Small Robot Company harnesses the power and precision of robots and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to improve the way that food is produced and minimise chemical usage.

Small Robot Company’s prototype Rachael embodies all the core technology needed for its forthcoming Tom, Dick and Harry arable farmbots. This includes autonomy, geolocation, obstacle avoidance, navigation and the ability to accurately position objects on a map within 2 centimetres.

In addition Small Robot Company will preview the design for its ‘Harry’ robot, a digital planting robot for arable crops. Harry will accurately place seed individually in the ground at a uniform depth to within 2cm accuracy. This will create a plant level map showing the location of each seed, enabling farming to be digitised. Harry’s commercial trial is anticipated for October 2018.

“Small Robot Company is both proud to represent Great Britain, and excited to explore how we can provide an arable crop service that brings benefit across the world. Rice remains the single most important food crop globally. But labour shortages, chemical overuse and improving yield are all ongoing difficulties,” said Ben Scott-Robinson, co-founder, Small Robot Company.

“Robotics has the potential to solve these problems. We want to use this opportunity to starting working with rice farmers to evolve and develop a service that answers their needs, in the same way we have been working with wheat farmers in the UK. Being able to provide precision and automation for rice would not just be a step forward in farming, it will revolutionise agriculture for half the world’s population.”

The first crop that Small Robot Company will focus on is wheat, with its service later to be extended to other arable crops such as rice and soya.

“There are several challenges with rice production that we hope to help solve. Firstly, labour. Urban migration is causing shortages and the age of the average rice farmer is steadily rising; many are near retirement,” continues Ben. “Secondly, the environment. Overuse of chemicals is endemic. And fertiliser usage is 75% higher and pesticide 40% in China than the global average for rice production. Thirdly, yield. Growing world population means a 25% leap in rice yield is required by the year 2025. Meanwhile crop diversification, industrialisation and urbanisation have caused a 19% reduction in the land area farmed for rice in the last 40 years.”

Small Robot Company recently won a prestigious Horizontal Innovation™ Award from the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) and the High Value Manufacturing Catapult (HVMC) to develop its Harry robot prototype technology.

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About The Author

John Swire - Deputy editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer as well as responsibility for the Agronomist and Arable Farmer and Farm Business websites. After 17 years milking cows on the family farm John started writing about agriculture in 1998 and has since written for a variety of publications and has developed a wide circle of contacts within the industry. When not working John is a season ticket holder at Stoke City and also of late has become a fitness freak, listing cycling, swimming and walking as his exercises of choice.