Robots in the field: farms embracing autonomous technology
Faced with seesawing commodity prices and the pressure to be more efficient and environmentally friendly, farmer Jamie Butler is trying out a new worker on his 450-acre farm in England’s Hampshire countryside.
Methodically inspecting Butler’s winter wheat crop for weeds and pests, the laborer doesn’t complain or even break a sweat. That’s because it’s a four-wheel robot dubbed “Tom” that uses GPS, artificial intelligence and smartphone technology to digitally map the field.
Tom’s creator, the Small Robot Company, is part of a wave of “agri-tech” startups working to transform production in a sector that is under economic strain due to market pressures to keep food cheap, a rising global population and the uncertainties of climate change.