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Robotics: Automatic help at hand for farms

FARM LABOUR: The Robotriks Traction Unit is an affordable agricultural robot.
FARM LABOUR: The Robotriks Traction Unit is an affordable agricultural robot.

Affordable agricultural robots are on the horizon according to Robotriks, part of a cluster of technology companies based at Plymouth University.

As analysts predict the agricultural technology market will reach $22.5 billion by 2025 – a rise from $9 billion in 2020 –the small company has introduced the Robotriks Traction Unit (RTU) which is designed to do manual farm labour. It costs £7,000, a fraction of similar products on the market.

The development comes hard on the heels of a report by digital analysts Juniper Research, which identified the key agricultural technology growth sectors as sensors for crop management, GPS field mapping, and supply chain management.

These services are anticipated to account for 67% of market value by 2025 as the farming industry strives to increase yields and reduce costs through connectivity and data insights.

The report states: “The need to automate data collection processes will drive the number of monitoring sensors to 436 million by 2025; rising from 170 million in 2020.

“These sensors will enable the monitoring of climate, hydration and soil pH levels to minimise operational inefficiencies.”

However, on a purely practical level, the RTU unveiled by Robotriks comprises a large drive wheel, suspension and a computer system, held together by galvanised pipe on which farmers can attach implements. These include conventional items such as a tow hitch, wheelbarrow or grass cutter, but also more high-tech and new devices including soil probes, robotic harvesting arms or depth cameras for 3D crop rendering.

It works either by remote control or autonomously, can carry several hundred kilos and is limited to run at up to 10mph.

Company director Jake Shaw-Sutton said: “The aim is to create a system which is affordable and reliable.

“It’s not about taking away jobs, it’s about filling jobs where there currently are no people available to do them. For a while there have been fewer people willing to go out into the fields and harvest fruit and vegetables; this is an autonomous solution to that.”

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