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    Advent day 6: Six years of Hands Free farming and a Bloom(berg)ing good profile of our work

    6 December 2022




    The work of the Hands Free Farm team has been profiled by the renowned Bloomberg Businessweek magazine. 

    The full article – which can be read here – follows the six-year mission of the team,  the first of their kind anywhere in the world to grow, tend and harvest a crop without operators in the driving seat or agronomists on the ground. 

    Following a series of successes on their initial Hands Free Hectare site, which built the team’s name and profile in both media and industry, in May 2019 the team secured fresh funding from Innovate UK. 

    Working with partners Farmscan AG UK, the Agri-EPI Centre and Precision Decisions, they moved to the 35-hectare Hands Free Farm site, scaling up their work – and the challenges their machines faced. 

    It was shortly after this that the team began to work with Bloomberg, with reporter Simon Akam noting: “I followed the Hands Free team as they went from first mover to underdog upstart, battling recalcitrant robotics, a pandemic, supply chain dysfunction and conventional obstacles such as British weather.” 


    The piece examines the impact the Farm has had over its six years of operation, and speaks to former Harper Adams Professor Simon Blackmore, a leading global expert on agricultural robotics. 

    It notes how Professor Blackmore was a key inspiration for Hands Free Farm Principal Investigator and Senior Engagement Fellow, Kit Franklin, with his advocation of smaller, smarter machines: “With human operators, the incentive was to build steadily larger machines so one driver could do more work, but those behemoths compacted the soil, which then needed to be broken up mechanically.  

    “A fleet of little robots, in his view, would allow farmers to reduce soil compaction, chemical use and labour requirements generally.” 

    Bloomberg also examines the impact of the Hands Free Farm team’s pioneering research on the industry more widely. 

    The changing face of agriculture over the span of the project suggests a global market prediction for the value of autonomous equipment of $155 billion by 2027 – more than two and a half times what the figure was when Bloomberg’s reporter first visited the Farm. 

    Across a series of visits, the piece builds a sense of the Hands Free Farm team, the challenges they faced building systems to carry out tasks which had never been done autonomously before, and how they solved them. 




    Read more about the Hands Free Farm team’s work here: 

    HFHa team initiate discussions to create industry guide for autonomous vehicles 

    Hands Free Farm preparing for first crop drilling 

    Hands Free Farm successfully completes first drilling operation 

    Chancellor, The Princess Royal, makes private visit to the Hands Free Farm 

    Kit Franklin secures IAgrE President's award 

    Autonomous arable crop production is both technically and economically feasible, new research shows 

    BBC Countryfile Harvest special looks at the future of harvesting - with Harper Adams’ Hands Free Farm team 

    Wealth of Precision Agriculture research to be presented at major international conference 

    Hands Free Farm team marks six years of success – and looks to the future




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