10 March 2020
The Hands Free Farm are utilising a penetrologger, provided by Van Walt Ltd, for the determination of soil compaction in the Hands Free Hectare.
Van Walt Ltd is one of the leading providers of environmental monitoring equipment in the UK.
The penetrologger, is a research grade instrument, used mainly by researchers, agronomists, civil engineers and universities to test the penetration of a soil. This does two things; firstly it, determines the load-bearing capacity of a soil, so demonstrates if a tractor can be driven across this field. Secondly, it also provides data to show the ease with which roots will grow through the ground.
The resistance to penetration is a mechanical characteristic that, given a certain texture, depends on changing parameters such as degree of humidity, density and the strength of the connection between mineral particles.
Measuring the resistance to penetration of the soil in a large area is best executed using an electronic penetrometer together with a datalogger; the penetrologger. It automatically stores and processes data in the instrument to make taking, then analysing readings, much quicker, efficient and accurate.
Tracey Daley, from Van Walt Ltd said: “Our customers come from a range of disciplines, from mineral exploration to food security. We have been providing Harper Adams University with equipment for many years and when Jonathan Gill approached us about the Hands Free Hectare, now the Hands Free Farm, we were keen to be involved.
“The automation of agriculture to create a more efficient, productive, environmentally friendly agricultural sector is something we want to support. Technology to deliver data on which to make vital decisions around the production of food will help solve some of the problems of feeding a growing world population and the delivery of data is something we are very familiar with.
“We have developed our own data collection equipment which work with a variety of different environmental sensors, to improve the monitoring of vital resources like water, soil and groundwater.
“Whether it’s robotics in driverless tractors or a series of water sensors to monitor water levels, linked to alarms to provide early warnings in the event of floods, technology and the delivery of data, is fuelling a re-think across many sectors.
“Technology that saves time, money and delivers efficiencies is becoming more accessible. Using these developments to improve the way we do things, particularly in a sector like agriculture, should be encouraged and supported. That’s why we wanted to be part of this project.”
Mechatronics researcher Jonathan Gill said: “The Hands Free Farm was designed to weave autonomous farming with attaining data on crops, soils and machinery.
“We hope to prove looking after our soils in a more sustainable way through operating small autonomous agricultural machines, as a result of producing less compaction on our fields while breaking down yield barriers with improved efficiency and enhanced precision.
“Data logging equipment is so important collected in a scientific rigour while being calibrated to ensure robustness. Thanks to Van Walt’s help, our 35 hectare farm and our Harper Adams University students benefit with some of the best technology that industry has to offer.”