Innovate UK has announced that the country is to be the venue of the world’s first robotic farm at Clock House Farm in Kent., following the confirmation of funding to the tune of £2.5 million. Robot Highways is a project that aims to ensure industry sustainability by addressing labour shortages, the need for global food production and reduce the environmental impact of the farming sector. The consortium responsible of delivering Robot Highways includes Berry Gardens, Saga Robotics, the University of Lincoln, the University of Reading, the Manufacturing Technology Centre, BT, and strawberry grower Clock House Farm.
The project will receive nearly £2.5m to perform the biggest-known demonstration of robotics and autonomous technologies, which will The trial will set out to deliver a vision for the future of soft-fruit growing, where robots will assist growers by carrying out essential, energy-intensive physical farm processes such as picking and packing fruit and treating crops to reduce pests and diseases, powered by renewable energy. The project is also aimed at increasing industrial sustainability by reducing reliance on seasonal labour by reducing labour requirements by an estimated 40%.
Robot Highways also constitutes a move towards a carbon-zero future, with an estimated 20% reduction in fruit waste, 90% reduction in fungicide use, a huge reduction in the use of fossil fuel across all farm logistic operations and a 15% increase in farm productivity.
Artificial intelligence and machine-learning technologies will be harnessed, and improvements will be made to telecommunications infrastructure in rural settings.
UK Farming Minister, Victoria Prentis, said, “It’s great to see investment in these outstanding ideas which will help us tackle the farming industry’s greatest challenges, from achieving net-zero emissions to investing in sustainable alternative protein for animal feed. Farming has never before been at the centre of such exciting and forward-looking innovations.”
Oli Pascall, managing director at Clock House Farm, said, “Clock House Farm is very excited to be part of the consortium and the demonstration farm for the project, which will help us with our ambition to be an innovative leader in our sector.”