The Small Robot Company (SRC), a British agritech start-up for sustainable farming, and Tuckwells, one of the UK’s leading John Deere (JD) dealerships, have partnered up to focus on industry-leading design and technologies. And the partnership is already presenting exciting data.
In early spring, SRC’s Tom autonomous monitoring robot surveyed a 14.5ha wheat field in Suffolk. The resulting data shows the potential to save 97% of an early spring herbicide application, for the same effective control of broadleaf weeds as spraying an entire field.
The data collected by the Tom robot was processed by SRC’s AI advice engine, Wilma, to advise on the best action to take, before being passed to Tuckwells.
During the trial, the SRC data ran through JD’s Operation Centre; the treatment map for the wheat herbicide was then supplied to a Mazzoti sprayer, with individual nozzle control over its 36m boom. With that, just 3% (0.42ha) of the field had to be sprayed, resulting in a herbicide saving of £24.48/ha. If the field was treated with a JD R962i sprayer with 3m sectional control, it would spray 13% of the field area, saving £21.96/ha.
George Whelan, Tuckwells’ group technology manager, noted the considerable saving and highlighted that the partnership’s threshold for new technology is to save ‘at least £10/ha, to ensure a new service brings the farmer a return on investment’. Though, he added that “this looks like it brings at least double that.”
SRC president and co-found Sam Watson-Jones says that the service pilot trials (scanning the crop four times throughout the season) also showed potential for cutting herbicide applications by roughly 77% and fertiliser by roughly 15%; depending on the field conditions, and the density and dispersion of the weeds.
“The advantage of the SRC service is not just the granularity of the survey data, which covers the whole field. You also know how much you will need to apply before filling up the sprayer – what you put in the tank is what you use, nothing will be wasted,” Mr Watson-Jones said.
“But we believe that’s just the tip of the iceberg, in terms of the potential for what per-plant farming can deliver: for input-cost savings, yield enhancement and the resulting reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.”
The 2022 service is now fully subscribed, having been offered first and exclusively to SRC’s farmer advisors, and 2023 is selling out fast. Check out the SRC website for more details: www.smallrobotcompany.com.