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Minister hails Hands Free Hectare for embracing innovation

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12 June 2019

Hands-Free Hectare has been hailed as being an innovative breakthrough in the future and sustainability of agriculture by Chris Skidmore MP, Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation and Interim Minister of State for Energy and Clean Growth.

Speaking at CogX, the Festival of AI and Emerging Technology, the Minister said that many believe that we’re in the early days of a fourth Industrial Revolution and backed Michael Gove’s identification of an agricultural revolution too.

Skidmore said: “How we use our land will have to change just as everything else will.

“Farmers of course know this all too well, having been on the front-line last summer when temperatures were extraordinarily high, and food production became particularly challenging.

“It might be this understanding that has inspired our agricultural sectors to embrace innovation. We have begun using robots to plant, grow and harvest crops – as successfully trialled by Harper Adams University with its Hands Free Hectare project, which has attracted global interest.”

Skidmore also listed vertical farming, using AI to monitor the relationship between bees and the environment and adopting precision agriculture techniques to improve crop yields and reduce use of fertiliser as innovative developments in the sector.

“I think that this gives us a glimpse into how we’ll be producing food in the future. These are all crucial developments, and each can make a major contribution in reducing our carbon footprint.”

Hands Free Hectare is a world first project, developed at Harper Adams University, with automated machines growing and harvesting arable crops remotely without operators in the driving seats or agronomists on the ground – growing from 1 hectare to a 35 hectare farm already since the project began in 2017.

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