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Jonathan Gill delivers findings of Nuffield Farming Scholarship report on Agri-tech

Posted 3 December

"Adopting technologies such as auto steer, section control or controlled traffic farming (CTF) all have potential to contribute towards on-farm time and cost savings."

Mechatronics Researcher Jonathan Gill has delivered the findings of his Nuffield Farming Scholarship-backed investigation, “How do we embrace automation in agriculture”.

Jonathan presented his report to an audience including Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester and Patron of Nuffield Farming, at the Nuffield Farming Conference 2019. The report, is the culmination of 18 months’ international travel and research, sponsored by The Worshipful Company of Farmers, Savills and McDonald’s restaurants.

At Harper Adams, Jonathan has worked on a variety of automation projects, including the world-first Hands Free Hectare, but sought to expand his knowledge and experience of automated agricultural systems.

“It was a brilliant, life changing experience that taught me many lessons along the way,” he said. “I wanted to see different types of automation around the world outside of my work at Harper Adams and it was great to take a back-seat approach to learning about what’s going on in technology right now.”

Jonathan has visited Chennai, India to investigate the impact of the mobile phone revolution and how access to 4G is changing automation. He visited Wageningen University in the Netherlands to discuss the capabilities of autonomous vehicles, before heading to France to the Fira International Forum of Agricultural Robotics, which hosted “some of the most influential and progressive agricultural automation companies based in western Europe”.

Summarising his findings, Jonathan said: “Legislation needs to be geared towards rewarding technology because I’m finding that countries such as China, which has less regulation than Europe, are becoming world leaders. For example, the Chinese company XAG have sprayed 1.3 million hectares of using 3,000 drones this year alone however drone spraying remains illegal in the UK.

“But it is also important to focus on the ‘quick wins’ of automation…Adopting technologies such as auto steer, section control or controlled traffic farming (CTF) all have potential to contribute towards on-farm time and cost savings. Agricultural innovation and development is a shared global challenge: from the hand-planted paddy fields of India to the automated prairies in Canada, automation can be applied and accessed at most levels.”

Jonathan has returned to Harper Adams to continue his work, including development of the Hands Free Farm.

Read the full Nuffield report here.

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