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Robots solving labour and productivity issues for dairy and arable farmers

Dairy and arable farmers are looking to invest in robotics as they seek to tackle labour shortages and boost productivity.

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Robots solving labour and productivity issues

Research from the latest Map of Ag research study, conducted by the National Farm Research Unit (NFRU), showed about 6 per cent of dairy farms have already invested in robots, with 13 per cent considering it over the next five years.

 

Investment

 

On arable farms, about 5 per cent have already invested, with 11 per cent considering it.

 

Jim Williams, head of AgAnalytics at Map of Ag, said handled correctly, data was the newest crop, but farmers needed to apply ‘world-class data science’ to the data.


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He said: “In the 21st Century, the typical farm may well number a data scientist among their professional advisers, alongside their agronomist, accountant and vet.”

 

However, he added the technology would need good mobile data signals, making it essential to address connectivity issues.

 

Uptake in the dairy industry has been driven by the seven-days-a-week nature of the business and a shortage of skilled labour.

 

James Husband, technical director of Evidence Group, a specialist veterinary consultancy, said new technology had benefits for herd welfare, health and productivity.

 

“It also brings benefits for dairy farmers by reducing routine tasks and giving them more time to focus on management issues or spend with their families,” he said.

 

Alongside milking, robots were also utilsed in autonomous feed pushers.

 

Arable

 

In the arable sector, automation was ‘well advanced’ with the use of technologies such as GPS guidance, remote satellite imagery and remote sensing widely adopted, while the use of variable rate seeding, spraying and fertiliser application was increasing.

 

Driverless farm equipment could take this a step further, with Case IH collaborating with a large carrot producer in North America on an autonomous tractor pilot programme.

 

Other equipment companies such as Fendt were working on technologies such as Mobile Agricultural Robot Swarms (MARS) which uses streamlined robot units.

 

However, adoption has been significantly lower in the beef and sheep sectors, with technological advances often not coming in the shape of automation.

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