Portsmouth firm brings artificial intelligence to farming

Harry the robot, made by the Small Robot Company in Portsmouth
Harry the robot, made by the Small Robot Company in Portsmouth
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A HAMPSHIRE-BASED robot builder demonstrated an early version of its artificial intelligence system Wilma, an autonomous crop management system for arable farming, at a top conference.

The CLA, which represents farmers, landowners and rural businesses, worked with a number of companies to develop a Tech Hub at the East of England Farming Conference on November 1.

The hub, which showcased a variety of businesses from across the country that have technology and innovation at the heart of what they do,  featured an appearance from the Small Robot Company, based in Portsmouth.

Sam Watson Jones, co-founder of the Small Robot Company and fourth generation farmer, said: ‘Agriculture is arguably the last analogue industry - but within 10 years the digital farm will be here. This is the most exciting time to be a farmer. 

‘There’s huge potential for farmers in embracing artificial intelligence. It will completely transform what’s possible on the farm.

‘Ultimately, we will be able to employ permaculture techniques at scale - using gardening tactics such as companion planting, but for broadacre crops. Different crops could be planted alongside each other in the same field, and harvested at different times.’ 

Organised by the East of England Agricultural Society and held at the East of England Showground, the conference shared information and best practice with delegates from all aspects of the industry.

CLA east regional director Ben Underwood said: ‘The East of England Farming Conference was an excellent opportunity to discuss the big issues facing farming and agriculture in the region and comes at a crucially important time for the industry.

‘With the ongoing Brexit negotiations providing continued uncertainty it is important for businesses to be considering how they make best use of their assets, and how advances in technology have the potential to improve productivity.

‘The farming industry is going through a period of significant change and those who work in the industry need to be innovative in how they respond to the challenges ahead. Technology can have a part to play within that.’