‘Robot Highways’ provides a vision for the future of soft fruit farming. It will create the largest known global demonstration of robotics and autonomous systems (RAS) technologies that fuse multiple application technologies across a single farming system.
The project, which aims to ensure industry sustainability by addressing labour shortages, the need for global food production and reduce the environmental impact of the farming sector, was awarded funding of £2.5m by Innovate UK.
World’s first robotic farm
Robot Highways will deliver what is widely considered to be the world’s first robotic farm. A fleet of robots will perform a multitude of on-farm functions as one operation, powered by renewable energy.
The successful consortium responsible for delivering ‘Robot Highways’ consists of Saga Robotics, the University of Lincoln, the University of Reading, Manufacturing Technology Centre Limited, Berry Gardens Growers, BT, and Clock House Farm.
Aiming to be delivered by 2025 across the UK, ‘Robot Highways’ will harness Artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies and crucial improvements will be made to telecommunications infrastructure in rural settings.
The University of Lincoln – through its Lincoln Institute for Agri-food Technology – will be leading the academic contribution to robotic development and coordinating the fleet control system.
Professor Andrew Hunter, the University of Lincoln’s Deputy Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation, said: “It is widely agreed that robotics will transform the food and farming industries in the coming years, but there is still so much research and development to be done.
“Robot Highways is extremely timely as it will service a pressing national and international need and positions Lincolnshire, and the UK, at the leading edge of research innovations in this truly global industry.
“Agri-food is the largest manufacturing sector in the UK – twice the scale of automotive and aerospace combined – supporting a food chain which generates a Gross Value Added (GVA) of £113bn, with 3.9m employees in a truly international industry.”
Prof Simon Pearson, Director of Lincoln Institute for Agri-Food Technology, said: “This is a significant step forward in taking robotics onwards towards the market. I’m delighted that opportunities are being realised for the sector and agri-food robotics specifically.”
Read more at lincoln.ac.uk/news