The world-first project run by Harper Adams University and Precision Decisions to drill, manage and harvest a crop without anybody entering the field, has returned after successfully drilling its second crop, a hectare of winter wheat.
This time, the Hands Free Hectare team are hoping to improve the accuracy of their machinery, and are looking to improve on the performance of last year’s crop of spring barley.
Martin Abell, mechatronics researcher for Precision Decisions said: “The first year of the project aimed to prove that there is no technological reason why a field cannot be farmed without humans working the land directly and we did that using off-the-shelf technology and open source software.
“This year, thanks to funding from AHDB and the continued support from our industry sponsors, we are aiming to increase the yield through increasing accuracy of our machinery and improved remote agronomy.”
This season’s crop has been grown on the same hectare as last year, but wet conditions meant that while drilling begun on November 9, it was not completed until November 19.
Kit Franklin, agricultural engineering lecturer and project lead, said: “We had to abandon our first attempt to drill this season’s crop because it was raining quite heavily and the tractor was starting to slip around and lose its straight lines. But after 10 days of drier weather, we managed to come back and complete the job.
“When we drilled our spring barley earlier this year, the tractor was a bit wavy and so were the drill lines, but we have had six months to develop the system and we have seen improvements which will improve field coverage and ultimately yield.”