Hands Free Hectare 2: Autonomous farming machinery for cereals production

Project number 21510028

Lead partner Agri EPI 

Scientific partners Harper Adams University (staff operate on behalf of Agri EPI)

Industry partners Precision Decisions Limited

Start date October 2017

End date June 2018

AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds funding £45,000

Total funding £45,000

The challenge

Hands Free Hectare first ran during the 2016 to 2017 cropping year. It was a ‘world-first’ project run by Harper Adams University and Precision Decisions. Funded by Innovate UK, it aimed to drill, tend and harvest a barley crop without operators on the machine or agronomists in the field. 

In year one, the project looked to prove the feasibility of using open source global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) within field agriculture to autonomously till, plant, grow and harvest a spring barley crop. 

The systems used have been developed by the open-source community and utilised within the small-scale unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)/drone market, which has expanded rapidly in agriculture in the past four years. 

There is a need to build on lessons in year one to increase the accuracy of the machinery and to improve remote agronomy. There is also a need to inspire new talent to enter the industry to develop such technologies.

The project  

Hands Free Hectare 2 will build on the experiences during the 2016 to 2017 cropping season to:

1. Maintain the high profile of Hands Free Hectare

2. Improve field coverage, from 80 to 92 per cent, through improved tractor navigation and control

3. Improve remote agronomy, by increasing the number of sensors used in the systems

4. Farm one hectare of winter wheat autonomously (excluding harvesting)

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