Royal Academy of Engineering showcase to demonstrate the latest innovations that will transform agricultural sector

Robotic weeding machines, which distinguish between images of weeds and crop rows, are helping modern farmers significantly reduce their use of herbicides and improve crop yields. The technology is one of several innovations to be presented at an event at the Royal Academy of Engineering on 12 October.

Bringing together innovators in the agricultural sector, including engineers, business chiefs and leaders from key industry bodies, the Academy’s Innovation in agri-tech showcase highlights the most recent advances in the agricultural technology sector.

The innovations in the spotlight include Robocrop, a precision weed control technology developed by Garford Farm Machinery. This uses video imaging systems to differentiate between crops and weeds in real time, enabling implements to carry out appropriate and targeted operations in the right areas. This can include targeted spraying, which can reduce herbicide use by up to 99%, or mechanical weeding to avoid the need for herbicides altogether.

In years when weather or disease are especially bad, the targeted technology can have a significant impact on crop yield, especially when other options are unavailable, according to Philip Garford, Managing Director of Garford Farm Machinery: “There are fewer and fewer selective herbicides available, and now we have some cases where there are no herbicide options available and other techniques have to be employed.” Robocrop’s mechanical tools provide a solution in these cases.

Mr Garford will use the event to explain the latest improvements in the Robocrop technology, which provide additional costs savings to farmers.  “We’ve now developed our InRow Weeder onto an electrically-driven system, rather than hydraulics. It’s so much more efficient, using a fraction of the energy, and much more accurate.”

Other speakers at the event include Professor Toby Mottram, Founder and Chief Engineer of eCow, who will explain how his company’s technology can monitor a cow’s internal pH and temperature to assist those managing the livestock. The technology – a small wireless device swallowed by the cow – allows farmers to track the health of the animal and gives early warning of digestive disorders and poisoning. By giving access to information that farmers cannot usually see, eCow lets farmers improve the diet and supplements they give to cows, improving the health of the herd and quickly paying for itself by maximising the production of milk.

Other innovations to be showcased at the event include precision irrigation systems and sensor technology which will make the future of harvesting more efficient. There will also be displays from CNH Industrial, Senseye, Harper Adams University and the Institution for Agricultural Engineers.

Professor Richard Godwin FREng, who will chair the event, said: "Despite the difficulties in the sector in the past 10 - 15 years, the presentations at the Innovation in agri-tech event will clearly demonstrate that innovation has continued and that now, with a resumed focus on the importance of the sector, the UK will be able to further contribute to food production at home and internationally”.

The UK’s entire agri-food supply chain, from agriculture to food retail and catering, is estimated to contribute £96 billion to the UK economy annually. Since the government launched its UK agricultural technology strategy in 2013, it has committed £160 million to support the sector.  With a strong academic base and a network of support for technology clusters around the country, the UK is well-placed to deliver further innovations across the food supply chain - from planting seeds to transporting goods.

The event is the latest in the Academy’s ‘Innovation in…’ series, following successful showcases covering energy, aerospace, and autonomous systems. Celebrating the achievements of the sector and examining how to help agri-tech innovation progress from initial research to commercial viability, the event will focus on new technologies and those expected to reach the market over the next decade.

Notes for Editors

  1. A full programme for the event, including speaker biographies and abstracts, is available from the event page.
  2. Royal Academy of Engineering. As the UK's national academy for engineering, we bring together the most successful and talented engineers for a shared purpose: to advance and promote excellence in engineering. We provide analysis and policy support to promote the UK's role as a great place to do business. We take a lead on engineering education and we invest in the UK's world-class research base to underpin innovation. We work to improve public awareness and understanding of engineering. We are a national academy with a global outlook. We have four strategic challenges: Drive faster and more balanced economic growth; foster better education and skills; lead the profession; promote engineering at the heart of society.

For more information please contact:

Aaron Boardley at The Royal Academy of Engineering:
T: 020 7766 0655
E: aaron.boardley@raeng.org.uk