Guidance on the use of autonomous mobile machinery (AMM), including crop robots in agriculture and horticulture, has been published by BSI.
The code of practice has been designed to allow farmers, agencies, manufacturers, importers, distributors and other users to take advantage of available technology to operate sustainably, address labour shortages and respond to demand. The World Resources Institute estimates that farmers will need to produce around 60% more food by 2050 to serve the world’s growing population and having access to these tools could be crucial to help them improve sustainable food production and meet rising demand.
The ‘Use of Autonomous Mobile Machinery in Agriculture and Horticulture – Code of practice’ (BS 8646:2023) provides safety and risk management guidance, information on training and maintenance and advice on farm planning.
This follows a global drive towards uptake of AMM across the industry. In February this year, the UK Government pledged £168m in funding to help encourage the development of new technology and innovative ways of farming, with a focus on practical solutions that advance food productivity and deliver significant environmental and animal welfare benefits, including robotic technology.
As set out in BSI’s recent white paper on Smart Farming, with agriculture contributing an estimated 19-21% of global carbon emissions, technology can address many pressing challenges. For example, data analytics solutions, such as sensing the moisture level of soil, could increase crop precision and accuracy, while robotics technology is already being used to take on tasks like fruit picking.
Sebastiaan Van Dort, associate director, sustainability and energy at BSI, said: “Smart farming can bring huge benefits to society, including more economic production of crops, sustainable production and greater food security, as well as helping the agriculture sector to meet Net Zero targets. However, owners and operators of AMM also need to feel sure that the introduced technology is used safely.
“Using IT including robotics has the potential to accelerate progress towards a sustainable world while delivering higher, more profitable growth and improved food quality. This new code of practice can facilitate the development of the AMM manufacturing sector, helping to protect the future of farming and benefit us all.”
BS 8646:2023 also clarifies roles and responsibilities of owners and operators, designers and manufacturers and importers and distributors to reduce uncertainties.