Drones create ‘hands free’ harvest

Blade Runner, meet Blade Cutter.

Ok, they’re not androids, they don’t look anything like people – but on one farm in England, the first “hands free” harvest has just been brought into the barn.

That’s because this “Hands Free” is a robotic farm.  Not because they grow robots, but because robots do all the field work – the plowing and the planting, the watering and the fertilizing, the weeding and – the harvesting.

Now, “hands free” (up there surveying a newly sprouted crop), is not replacing the farmer – just doing the field work for her or him.

So the “crew” on this farm is mostly made up of standard farm machines – a tractor, a combine, a grain harvester – packed with GPS, electronics and robotic gear.  The first step was running everything by remote control – but now the researchers running this experiment (and it is still an experiment) are letting the robots run the farm machinery, and work through an entire seasonal cycle – from plowing to harvesting.

Ah, and the drones are used to check on the crop, and even to dip down, cut off a few blades from a plant, and bring it back to the farmer, for a check (More water?  More fertilizer?  Bug problem?)

Now, the harvest is in, and coming soon, a limited edition “hands free” beer, using this year’s barley harvest.

Yes, the beer will be made by people.  And unfortunately no, we won’t be able to toast the robotic harvesters.  This batch of beer will be only for people involved with the project.  Of course, if one of those robots asked for a pint, no doubt they’d pour one.

Click here to read more about what’s new, what’s next and what it means for you.

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