UK-based organic vegetable grower, Home Farm Nacton, has taken delivery of a Robotti 150D from Danish manufacturer Agrointelli. The first robotic implement-carrier in the UK, the Robotti is now fully operational on the estate.
Producing both organic and conventional vegetables, Home Farm Nacton was looking for ways to adopt more technology into the business, and the Robotti 150D ticked all of the boxes. The autonomous machine is capable of carrying out seeding, weeding, harrowing, grass cutting, rotavating, power harrowing and spraying.
The model at Home Farm has two Kubota 75 HP Diesel or bio fuel engines; the left engine propels the machine and powers the conventional 3 point hitch, meaning it can be fitted with standard implements and perform multiple tasks in the field throughout the season. The right engine drives the PTO. Each engine takes 110 litres of fuel, which is enough for the machine to run continuously for approximately 24 hours.
Autonomously controlled by GPS via an onboard computer, the Robotti 150D follows a pre-programmed planned route in the field without the need for a human driver.
“The accuracy lies in the GPS mapped field, with Robotti taking the same exact lines every time,” explains Frederik Rom, Agrointelli sales manager. “It is equipped with RTK GPS, so the set up on any farm is simple. It took approximately 10 minutes to map a four-acre field at Home Farm, and a further 10 minutes to log the weeding plan into the system. It is important for this to be accurate from the start, as it will determine reliable performance.”
Dealing with obstacles
Field obstacles such as telegraph poles or trees are logged at the programming stage. Any other obstacles outside of this will make Robotti stop in its tracks for safety, until the obstacle is removed from its path. In the office at Home Farm, Andrew Williams, farm director, has access to the online Robotti portal, providing real-time updates of the machine’s progress.
“A large amount of our produce is organic, so we are increasingly limited in how we can control weeds. Chemical application is repetitive work, as is manual weeding, and sourcing seasonal, overseas labour is becoming increasingly difficult. We wanted to future-proof the farm and Robotti is perfectly suited to our set-up,” explained Williams.
“I can leave Robotti working in the field quite happily, knowing that it will send me an alert if there is an issue, or if something unexpected is in its way. It has front and rear cameras, which I can view at any time. I am able to check the progress of crop growth at any location within that field, without having to walk to see it.
“The portal tells me how much fuel is in the tank, how many hours it has done, and how much time it has left before the fuel runs out. It will also tell me when it’s finished one field, so I can ensure it’s taken to the next field to start its new job.” he added.
Even weight distribution reduces soil compaction
While Home Farm Nacton is largely light land, development trials in Denmark show that the Robotti also works well on heavier land. The machine works effectively with bed systems and row crops, as it carries the implement in the centre, evenly distributing the weight on all four wheels. The low ground pressure, low weight, and 4WD, means it is less likely to get stuck than a tractor, also reducing the risk of soil compaction and structural damage to the soil.
Agrointelli and Fram Farmers
Home Farm Nacton heard about Robotti through their Fram Farmers membership. Fram Farmers is the UK’s leading farmer-owned inputs purchasing and crop marketing business, providing the purchasing, grain marketing and administrative function for over 1400 farming businesses across the UK. Gordon Cummings, machinery manager of Fram Farmers set the relationship up with Home Farm Nacton and Agrointelli.
“The interest in autonomous tractors has been around a long time, and we’re delighted to have been involved in bringing this to the UK for Andrew and the team at Home Farm Nacton,” said Cummings.
“The process has been simple, and we’re proud to now be able to offer this supplier relationship to other Fram Farmers members. I’m sure that many of our fresh produce grower members will have the chance to see Robotti in operation at Home Farm over the next few months, demonstrating the benefits and efficiencies that forward-thinking technology can bring to this sector and our members productivity” he added.
Jakob Bebe, CCO at Agrointelli explained “We are happy to announce our collaboration with Fram Farmers through the delivery of our Robotti 150D to Home Farm Nacton. It is a huge milestone for us to penetrate such an important market as the UK. We are looking forward to see, what the future brings,”