Trials have begun in the Peak District of a new autonomous farming robot which is designed to drive itself around steep grassland identifying and destroying weeds.
The machine has been created by the IBEX project, a consortium of SMEs who design and build advanced agricultural robotics. Co-funded by Innovate UK, the robot uses a precision arm to be as accurate as human sprayers when targeting weeds.
Although currently focused on weed control on remote hillsides which are uneconomical or too dangerous to spray manually the project could have implications for other areas of agriculture and horticulture.
The developers claim that using the robot could reduce fuel and labour costs as well as reducing the environmental impact from herbicides. “IBEX is the first agricultural robot designed to tackle extreme agricultural environments such the Yorkshire hill farms,” said Dr Charles Fox, project manager of IBEX at Hunshelf Hall Farm. “Taking the concept beyond university labs and overcoming extreme terrain mobility limitations, we designed and built IBEX to military standards, to go where other vehicles can’t operate and to tackle a real world problem affecting many farmers around the UK. We have a very interested and active user group of local farmers and we’re continually using their advice.”
Photo Credit: The IBEX Project