Future Of Food: This Entire Barley Field Was Planted And Harvested By Machines
Tags: Artificial Intelligence, opinion, Technology
By Amanda Froelich Truth Theory
In the United Kingdom, drones and autonomous machinery just seeded, tended and harvested an entire crop of barley. No humans participated in the cultivation method, which is both neat and a bit frightening for those who are cautious about relying on machines. The project was led by Hands Free Hectare which seeks to explore the future of autonomous farming.
According to a press release, Hands Free Hectare is run by Harper Adams University and Precision Decisions. The first successful harvest was celebrated by both groups, as their goal was to be the first project to plant, care for and harvest crops which were solely tended to by drones and autonomous machines.
In total, the project cost just under £200,000, or around $265,037. Reportedly, that is a low figure compared to other autonomous farming vehicle projects. Costs were kept low by relying on open source technology and machinery farmers can purchase today.
Said Mechatronics researcher Martin Abell of Precision Decisions, “This project aimed to prove that there’s no technological reason why a field can’t be farmed without humans working the land directly now and we’ve done that. We set out to identify the opportunities for farming and to prove that it’s possible to autonomously farm the land, and that’s been the great success of the project.”
This past season, the drones harvested around five metric tons of barely. Said Abell, “Throughout the year we’ve been predicting a yield of 5 tonnes. Looking in the trailer, it looks like we’re not quite there. Our agronomist predicted 4.5 tonnes and it looks like he’s on the money.” What will the crop be used for? The Hands Free Hectare researchers will put it to good use by making beer.
According to researcher Kit Franklin of Harper Adams University, automation is the future of agriculture — similar to the transportation sector. In the team’s first press release from late 2016, Franklin said: “It’s not about putting people out of jobs; instead changing the job they do. The tractor driver won’t be physically in the tractor driving up and down a field. Instead, they will be a fleet manager and agricultural analysts, looking after a number of farming robots and meticulously monitoring the development of their crops.”
Though this latest trial proved successful, the Hands Free Hectare researchers are just getting started. They now plan to repeat their experiment, but with a winter crop.
Watch the video below to learn more:
Learn more: Hands Free Hectare
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