East Anglia: Robots ‘could be working the fields’

Farming in a bygone era, depicted by East Anglian artist Steven Binks

Farming in a bygone era, depicted by East Anglian artist Steven Binks - Credit: Archant

A vision of the future at the Norfolk Farming Conference

Professor Simon Blackmore, head of engineering at Harper Adams University, will explain how robots working fields could be more science ‘fact’ than ‘fiction’ at this year’s Norfolk Farming Conference.

He will give a vision of the future of farming and automation in a talk entitled ‘Farming with Robots 2050’.

The conference is at the John Innes Conference Centre, Norwich, on February 20.

Professor Blackmore will look at current trends and visionary robotics technology that is currently being developed to predict the opportunities for the future. He will outline how autonomous robots have the very real potential to revolutionise the efficiency of farming to meet new challenges, such as feeding a growing world population, while having a smaller impact on the environment and using scarcer fuel more efficiently.

Some of the potential benefits of robots include boosting yields through crop scouting and only harvesting crops that are of a saleable quality. Other opportunities including grading and packing crops at the point of origin to extend traceability, reducing herbicide use by weeding with small lasers and improving soil fertility by reducing the need for heavy machinery, which can compact soil.

This year’s conference will also provide aninsight into farming’s more immediate future as National Farmers’ Union (NFU) senior Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) adviser, Gail Soutar, will discuss the latest CAP reforms and look at how the changes will impact on UK farmers. The government’s agri-tech strategy, as well as investment and funding streams, will be discussed by Mid-Norfolk MP, George Freeman.

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Another highlight will be a major debate on sugar beet, taking place in the afternoon session giving delegates the chance to put their questions to industry-leading speakers.

Tickets to the Norfolk Farming Conference, which is organised by agricultural purchasing group, Anglia Farmers, are selling fast. For booking details and the full conference programme visit www.norfolkfarmingconference.org.