Strip cropping trials launched at Hands Free Farm

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New research will begin at Harper Adams University’s Hands Free Farm this spring to investigate how its autonomous vehicles can be used in strip cropping.

The first farm in the world to grow, tend and harvest a crop without manual operators or agronomists on the ground will have its achievements celebrated and demonstrated at the Farm of the Future: Net Zero in Practice event on April 13.

Driverless tractor

Kit Franklin, principal investigator, will be speaking at the event and will showcase the Farm’s driverless tractors alongside demonstrations from FarmDroid and Small Robot Company. He will also share how the autonomous technology will be used in the strip cropping trials.

The technique involves cultivating a field where a variety of different crops are planted in strips – with wheat, barley and beans set to be grown side-by-side on the trial site. Mr Franklin said challenges faced with using alternating tightly-packed plants in strip cropping could be resolved through these trials: “Here at the Hands Free Farm, much of the equipment we use is small by modern farming standards. However, once that equipment is combined with the precision of our autonomous systems, it means opens up new possibilities for strip cropping by machine.

“We’re ready to go – with our autonomous machines’ routes plotted out in preparation. Once sown, these trials will involve us working with academics from across the University, who will study how this new approach to strip cropping is working not only for the crops – but also more widely.

“We’re hoping to see both an increase in both soil regeneration and biodiversity, enabled by our Hands Free Farm robotics.”


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