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John Lewis trialling farmbots

By Retail Technology | Monday December 10 2018

John Lewis Partnership (JLP) has begun trialling farmbots at its Waitrose Farm in Leckford

Farmbots have the potential to boost yields, improve soil health and increase efficiency in British farming. The technology is predicted to lift farmer revenues by up to 40%, and reduce costs by up to 60%.

JLP has announced a three-year trial with the Small Robot Company (SRC) to test its revolutionary farmbots at the company’s farm in Leckford, Hampshire. 

The Leckford Estate, which grows produce for Waitrose & Partners including mushrooms, rapeseed, apples and many other products, will see three small robots - Tom, Dick and Harry - learn and test their state-of-the-art farming technology on a one-hectare wheat field.

It will start with a prototype Tom robot, which is fitted with cameras and will get the lay of the land by gathering topographical data. 

Weighing just ten kilos, the robot is able to move autonomously to obtain a pin-point accurate, plant-by-plant view of the wheat field, leading to higher efficiency. 

Data collection

Through this data collection, SRC will develop its machine learning in a variety of scenarios, such as differentiating between weeds and terrain, while building new prototype machines in the process. 

The trial will also provide the JLP’s Room Y innovation team with valuable insight to support innovation at Leckford, and inform how robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) could be used further in other areas of the business. 

Andrew Hoad, partner & head of the Leckford Estate, said: “We are very excited to trial Tom, Dick and Harry at the Leckford Estate. The Waitrose & Partners farm has a long history in producing a wide variety of high quality crops. We work hard to farm in harmony with the environment and our vision for sustainable farming is aligned to what the Small Robot Company is trying to achieve.”




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