Members of the Machine Eye team recently had the pleasure of spending the day at the Hands Free Farm in the Agricultural Engineering Precision Innovation (Agri-EPI) Centre at Harper Adams University.

The Agri-EPI Centre at Harper Adams University was designed to accommodate a wide range of research and development projects; from traditional engineering to robotics, automation, laser technology, sensor development, and software development. They aim to bring leading organisations together to innovate engineering and precision agriculture, benefiting the livestock, arable, aquaculture and horticulture sectors.

The Hands Free Farm project launched in May 2019 as a continuation of the award-winning Hands Free Hectare feasibility study. This study was the first in the world to plant, tend and harvest crops without a driver or agronomists involved. The 35 hectare farm is based in Harper Adams University’s Shropshire campus, where they have a fleet of autonomous vehicles.

Our day at the Agri-EPI Centre consisted of a presentation on how smaller robotic vehicles will change the face of farming, allowing for greater crop yields, environmental protection, and increased safety for those working in the agricultural sector. In the afternoon we watched a live demonstration on how the Hands Free Farm vehicles work. We saw how individual vehicles work in a field, and how a fully autonomous tractor and combine harvester can work together in unison.

We are proud to share that one of the tractors on display used Machine Eye’s perception system to detect people that are not within a safe distance of the machine. This is especially important in England where the ‘Countryside and Rights of Way Act’ (CROW Act) means that members of the public may be adjacent to farm machinery. Hands Free Farm demonstrates that this will continue to become more prominent in future years as more advanced autonomous tractors enter our fields. Over the past months we have been working with the Hands Free Farm team to demonstrate our technology on their tractors.

We look forward to continued collaboration with Harper Adams University, Agri-Epi Centre and the Hands Free Farm consortia to increase the safety of autonomous vehicles in the coming years.