UK's first autonomous robotic tractor gets to work in Suffolk

Built by Danish company Agrointelli, the Robotti is said to be the world’s first diesel-powered fully robotic tractor. And the first UK farming enterprise to purchase an Agrointelli Robotti 150D is Home Farm Nacton in Suffolk.

Purchased sight-unseen at a cost of £150,000, the Robotti will be used for the production of organically grown crops. Farm director Andrew Williams reveals why the company purchased the Robotti 150D and how the autonomous tractor will be used on the farm. “Buying the tractor was an easy decision. I heard about Robotti from Gordon Cummings, Fram Farmers machinery manager, who had been looking into the use of robotics in the fresh produce sector for a couple of years.

"From a business point of view, we are all confident this is where the future for vegetable and root crop production is leading.”

Robotti can be programmed to perform zero-radius turns or U-turns on the headlands. Its guidance system can work in between rows or crop beds, follow an A-B line, or work systematically in bouts.

The Agrointelli Robotti 150D will be imported into the UK by Autonomous Agri Solutions based at Alcester in Warwickshire. The company will also provide customer support and product training.

“Organic crop production necessitates a great deal of repetitive work, as the crop beds constantly require hoeing and weeding. In the past we have relied on east-European workers, however, in recent years it has become increasingly difficult to find reliable sources of labour who are prepared to undertake this kind of work. The Robotti 150D represents a solution to this problem. “We ordered the Robotti in January. After discussing our requirements with Agrointelli, they were able to build a robot to specifications which suit our farming system and we took delivery on April 12.” The Home Farm Robotti 150D is two metres wide, with the wheels set at 1.84m (72 inches) to fit the crop beds. We are using the Robotti exclusively for hoeing at the moment, by adapting a weeding harrow to fit the machine which literally tickles the soil surface between the crop rows to prevent weeds from germinating.”

It took 20 minutes to field-map and set up the Robbotti for the media demonstration at Home Farm. The machines progress can be monitored in real-time using the on-line Robotti portal. “So far we have only been using the Robotti in the daytime when someone is nearby. It travels at 5kph and, with just one engine running, it is using an average of just 4.5 litres of diesel per hour (45 litres per day),” says Mr Williams. “One of the things we are currently having to do is to upgrade our guidance system and re-map field boundaries. The N-RTK system used by the Robotti is extremely accurate and Agrointelli has advised us to re-map all the fields where the robot will be operating before setting it up to work. “Since we purchased the machine, Agrointelli has been over here working with us making tweaks to the software as the robot learns to work in our field conditions. So far we have been extremely pleased with what we have seen and to my surprise, the robot has had a very positive reception from everyone working on the farm.”

“At the moment, we are still learning how to operate and fully understand the Robotti’s technology. We plan to start running it for 24 hours a day very soon. We will also be building and adapting new implements to use with the machine. In the future, we plan to use it with a single row onion drill, a weed topper and we also plan to use it with a spot-spraying system." He concludes: “I truly believe this type of technology has a significant role to play in the future of farming. We are delighted to be the first British farm to embrace the concept of the Agrointelli Robotti tractor, and we look forward to demonstrating the benefits and efficiencies this type of technology can bring to this sector of the industry.”

Source: FG Insight