Autonomous robots from Danish company FarmDroid are now available in the UK, following their recent launch in the Lincolnshire fens by UK distributor OPICO. Precise went out to the field to watch some sugar beet weeding.
FarmDroid is an autonomous solar powered seeding and weeding robot. The distributors reckon with manual plant hoeing costing c £250/Ha per pass, the cost benefit of using this £60k + VAT unit is such that it can do away with costly and potentially unreliable labour.
Each individual unit has a typical maximum working area of 20Ha, which it can seed and weed in any one season, although if the operators are prepared to move the unit, it can take care of larger blocks. Some customers in Germany are covering up to 50Ha with single units and some management input to move units between field blocks.
In work the unit moves at a sedate pace of up to 950m per hour, which doesn’t seem a lot, but when it can run for 18-24 hours per day in season it can cover a fair bit of ground, in fact the company claims up to 6Ha. Powered a total of 800w in two electric motors attached to the two rear drive wheels.
One of the limits is when planting date has a significant impact on harvest where blocks of crops need to be harvested within a finite time window, hence the recommended maximum working area.
Off grid and sustainable
Being solar powered, FarmDroid has very low running costs, no diesel, and minimal service input, with electric motors on the wheels and electric drives in the sowing units.
The units operation is CO2 neutral with the mechanical weeding process eliminating the need for herbicides in the field.
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