Simon Blackwell, head of Engineering at Harper Adams states:
We’re reevaluating the whole approach to agriculture. At the moment, crops are drilled in straight rows to suit machines, but what if they were drilled to flow the contours of the land, or to take account of the micro level environmental conditions within a portion of a field.
The robot Crop Scout shown in the picture could be used for a variety of tasks like weeding and spraying pesticides. In trials the robot reduced the amount of pesticides used by 98% by only applying it to areas that needed it.
Some ideas for the robot include shape recognition to detect weeds, seed mapping and height adjustment to lower or raise the robot depending on the need. It is unclear if all or any of these ideas have actually been implemented, besides the pesticide spraying.
The research was recently presented at the European Robotics Forum.