Revolutionising agriculture: the Small Robot Company

27th June 2024
Paige West

The Small Robot Company is at the forefront of a revolution in agricultural technology, leveraging robotics and artificial intelligence to transform traditional farming practices.

Founded by Ben Scott-Robinson and Sam Watson Jones, this British agritech startup aims to create a more sustainable and efficient future for agriculture. By focusing on precision farming, the company seeks to address some of the most pressing challenges faced by modern farmers, including environmental sustainability, crop yield optimisation, and cost reduction.

The vision

The vision behind the Small Robot Company is simple yet ambitious: to replace traditional, heavy machinery with lightweight, autonomous robots that can perform farming tasks with greater precision and minimal environmental impact. This approach not only aims to improve efficiency but also promotes sustainable farming practices that are better for the soil, the crops, and the overall ecosystem.

“With input costs on the rise, farmers are increasingly under pressure. Up to 90% of inputs are wasted. This is not economically or environmentally viable. Fertiliser alone is a major contributor to agricultural emissions,” comments Sam Watson Jones, President and Co-Founder, Small Robot Company.

“Robotics gives huge scope to close the gap: delivering applications by exception. Precision monitoring alone can provide immediate value, optimising existing sprayers for herbicide and fertiliser applications. But we believe that’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the potential for what per-plant farming can deliver, both in input-cost savings and yield enhancement.”

The robotic system

The company's innovative robotic system consists of three main robots – Tom, Dick, and Harry – each designed to perform specific tasks in the farming process, all coordinated by an artificial intelligence platform named Wilma.

Tom: this monitoring robot is equipped with advanced sensors and cameras to collect detailed data on soil conditions and crop health. By continuously scanning the fields, Tom provides farmers with real-time information that can be used to make informed decisions about irrigation, fertilisation, and pest control.

Dick: Dick is the weeding robot that uses precision technology to identify and eliminate weeds without disturbing the surrounding crops. This robot employs a method known as non-chemical weeding, which reduces the need for herbicides, thus promoting a healthier environment and reducing chemical runoff into water supplies.

Harry: Harry is the precision planting robot designed to sow seeds with exact accuracy. By planting seeds at optimal depths and spacing, Harry ensures better germination rates and healthier crop growth. This precision planting reduces seed wastage and enhances overall crop yields.

Wilma: the AI brain

Wilma, the artificial intelligence platform, serves as the central brain of the Small Robot Company's system. Wilma processes the data collected by Tom, coordinates the actions of Dick and Harry, and provides farmers with actionable insights. This AI-driven approach allows for continuous learning and improvement, enabling the system to adapt to changing conditions and optimise farming practices over time.

Sustainability and efficiency

The Small Robot Company's approach to farming is rooted in sustainability. By using lightweight robots, the company significantly reduces soil compaction, which is a common issue with traditional heavy farming machinery. Soil compaction can lead to poor water infiltration, reduced root growth, and lower crop yields. The company's robots, however, exert minimal pressure on the soil, preserving its structure and health.

Furthermore, the precision capabilities of the robots mean that inputs such as water, fertiliser, and pesticides can be used more efficiently. This not only reduces costs for farmers but also minimises the environmental footprint of agricultural activities.

Industry impact and future prospects

The Small Robot Company has garnered significant attention and support within the agritech community. Its innovative solutions have the potential to revolutionise the farming industry, making it more sustainable and resilient to the challenges posed by climate change and a growing global population.

Looking ahead, the company aims to expand its robotic fleet and enhance the capabilities of its AI platform. By continuing to innovate and refine their technology, the Small Robot Company is poised to play a crucial role in shaping the future of agriculture. 

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