Agri-Tech Hackathon aims to kick-start safety innovations for autonomous agricultural vehicles

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This September, Agri-EPI Centre, in partnership with the world renowned Hands Free Farm, are running a virtual Hackathon event to address the safety and security challenges of autonomous vehicles and drones in agriculture. 

Hands Free Future 

While the advancement of autonomous farm vehicles offers new economic and environmental benefits, their future growth also presents the new challenge of ensuring unmanned machines pose no risk to farmers, and the public crossing their land.

Hands Free Farm’s 35 hectare plot uses automated machines to grow, tend & harvest crops autonomously, without operators in the driving seats or agronomists on the ground. 

To ensure the rate of adoption can keep pace with the rate of innovation, the safety, security and reliability of new technologies must be guaranteed. 

Clive Blacker, Head of Arable Produce at Map of Ag, and Hands-Free farm lead partner, Precision Decisions, (part of the Map of Ag group) supports the route mapping element of the machine operations on the farm. He explains: “Safety is paramount to any solution and cannot be taken for granted. The diverse nature of agriculture and robotics operating in off road and on road environments poses many challenges, not just dealing with the structure of the rules of the road but the unconventional unstructured field work and environment causes many unpredictable challenges to the safety of robotics.  

The aim of our challenge is to bring great ideas from any background to agriculture that could support robotic safety in agriculture with the opportunity to test the ideas in a real robotic farm” 


Enhancing the safety & security of autonomous  agricultural vehicles is the core focus of this year’s Agri-EPI Centre Hackathon. This spans a range of technological hazards such as collision avoidance, human supervision and detecting both humans and animals traversing operational fields.

High-tech, high-value equipment and machinery must also be secure against the threat of theft and tampering, while the GPS systems and other software is at risk of cyber attack and data breaches.

Kit Franklin, Senior Agricultural Engineer, Harper Adams University and principle investigator says:“It’s about making autonomous machines a really safe, secure system that farmers feel comfortable with, the public can feel comfortable with and the legislators and insurers can feel comfortable with,”

The Agri-Tech Hackathon 2021

The Hackathon invites developers from a range of disciplines, such as robotics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, Internet of Things, drones, computer vision and more to “hack” a safety solution for unmanned machinery. Register your team by Tuesday 31 August ready to hack across the 29 & 30 September. 

The winning Hackathon teams will be offered a unique opportunity to implement their technology on the Hands-Free Farm, connecting them with expertise and experience to further develop their solution.

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