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Ag News

Hear about the worlds first crop grown hands free

  • By: "Prime" Ag News
  • Feb 05, 2018

Western Australian grain growers and industry stakeholders will this month have a unique opportunity to hear about the world’s first crop grown exclusively using autonomous vehicles and drones.

Martin Abell, of United Kingdom-based farming services company Precision Decisions Ltd will outline how this has been achieved during a keynote address to the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) Grains Research Update, Perth.

This update is Western Australia’s premier grains research forum and will be held at Crown Perth on February 26 and 27.

The ground-breaking ‘Hands Free Hectare Project (HFHa)’ will headline the Perth event's ‘innovations’ session, which also features information from Australian grain growers about the practical application of research outcomes that make a difference to their profitability.

Mr Abell will also present to regional audiences at the GRDC Grains Research Update events to be held in Northampton on February 23, Darkan on February 28 and Corrigin on March 1.

He said the HFHa project attracted global attention when its researchers successfully grew one hectare of spring barley in 2017 without humans entering the field.

“It has proven automated agriculture is possible and shown that there are no technological reasons why automated cereal farming should not take place commercially,” he said.

Carried out by Harper Adams University in Shropshire with Precision Decisions Ltd, the HFHa researchers created the world’s first automated field growing cycle that incorporated drilling (sowing), agronomy practices and harvesting and produced a barley crop that yielded 4.5 tonnes per hectare.

The project team used modified conventional agricultural machines equipped with an open-source autopilot from a drone.

Mr Abell said such automated agriculture practices are in early stages of commercialisation in the UK, with major equipment manufactures and start-ups offering these types of systems to the market.

“One of the objectives of our one-year project was to utilise machinery and technologies that are available and affordable, not bespoke and expensive,” he said.

“In fact, it is legislation that remains the primary barrier to widespread adoption of automated machines within all technological sectors - including agriculture.”

More information about the GRDC Grains Research Update events and registration is available on the GIWA website or the GRDC website. Alternatively, contact convenor the Grain Industry Association of WA (GIWA) on 08 6262 2128 or