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MTC Robocrop project set to revolutionise agriculture

Posted on 24 Apr 2022 and read 1153 times
MTC Robocrop project set to revolutionise agricultureRobotics experts at the Manufacturing Technology Centre have developed an autonomous robot that has the potential to ‘revolutionise agriculture’. Combining robotics, automation, artificial intelligence and advanced vision systems, the robot can inspect crops in detail and ascertain a number of key criteria.

Based on Spot the robotic dog, a go-anywhere robot developed by US-based Boston Dynamics, the RoboCrop project can ‘drastically cut the amount of chemicals and pesticides used in agriculture, as well as increase crop yield, improve produce quality and reduce costs’.

The RoboCrop team has joined forces with the leading fruit farm specialist Bardsley England, to prove the commercial, environmental and health benefits of using advanced robotics in the agricultural sector.

Automation experts at the MTC’s facilities in Liverpool and Coventry developed a bespoke payload for Spot to allow detailed inspection of Bardsley’s fruit crops. The robot’s on-board computer and robotic camera combines with a specially-designed crop-inspecting image-processing system to scan crops for quality, ripeness, pests and diseases.

The process means that chemicals would only be applied where and when required, avoiding the need to spray entire fields and orchards. Moreover, data collected by the robot can be viewed in real time.

Harry Fisher, a research engineer at the MTC, said the culmination of this stage of the RoboCrop project was a proud moment. He said: “By partnering with Bardsley England and Boston Dynamics, the MTC has been able to demonstrate how using advanced robotics can create a more sustainable and productive UK agricultural sector. Importantly, the inspection payload that has been developed specifically for this project can easily be adapted to other industries, ensuring the MTC continues to impact society positively in everything we do.”

Founded in 1892, Bardsley England has its headquarters in Kent, 26 sites in the UK covering 850 hectares and employs 420 people. The business supplies 35,000 tons of fruit each year, mainly to supermarkets.

Ben Bardsley, the company’s chief executive, said their objective is to produce carbon-neutral food, and that the use of robotics will help them to achieve their aim of totally automating their orchards by 2030.

More information on the RoboCrop project can be found at the website (the-mtc.org/case-studies/robocrop-spot-the-robotic-dog).