Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Tuesday 21 November 2017

Wonky and inedible veg to be eradicated by farm robots

Remote-controlled robotic tractors.
Remote-controlled robotic tractors.

Sarah Knapton

Wonky and inedible vegetables will be eradicated by farm robots which do not harvest crops until they are perfect, scientists have predicted.

Engineers are already working on machines which can autonomously plant seeds, weed, water and spray without a farmer needing to venture into the field.

They would also be programmed to only pick crops when they were ready for sale. Currently, farmers harvest fields all in one go, a practice known as slaughter harvesting, which can see up to 60pc of the crop wasted because it was not ready, or over-ripe.

Professor Simon Blackmore, head of agricultural robotics at Harper Adams University in Shropshire and director of the National Centre for Precision Farming, said he wanted to see robots, in the fields as early as 2020.

“I am trying develop a completely new agricultural mechanisation system based on small smart machines,” he told a briefing in London.

“We are developing laser weeding, droplet application where only 100pc of the chemical goes onto the target leaf, selective harvesting where we can grade the product at the point of harvest.

“Between 20 and 60 per cent of crops is thrown away at the point of harvest because supermarkets won’t buy wonky veg, because you and I don’t buy wonky veg.

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“When we are faced with a set of tomatoes or lettuces we pick the best one not the worst one. But we can leave lettuces behind which perhaps can’t be sold today, but we can come back next week and be able to harvest them then.”

Technology could also cut down on use of chemicals and even replace cheap labour which could be lost in the UK post-Brexit.


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Telegraph.co.uk