Harper Adams University in Shropshire, England, has been growing and harvesting crops with robotic vehicles since 2016 on an 86-acre experimental site. Among the farm’s workhorses in its Hands-Free Farm is a 3,000-pound, 38-horsepower robotic tractor.
In this recent article about soil compaction, National Geographic reported that equipment costs on 1,235 acres — almost exactly the same as the average no-tiller’s operation — could be cut by nearly two-thirds by adopting the sorts of machines used at Hands Free Farm.
Ag Researcher James Lowenberg-DeBoer notes that the large OEMs aren’t showing much interest in selling the equipment.
“What we need is an outside influence, someone that would come in and start selling autonomous equipment, just like Elon Musk shook up the electric vehicle market," Lowenberg-DeBoer says.