The pandemic has accelerated the need for agricultural automation due to labour-supply challenges. Longer-term rising labour cost and the need for increased precision, demand greater on-farm automation. Meanwhile, with national lockdowns, and wider public health drivers, more people are using rural footpaths, which typically cross farmland.
Increased public footfall on-farm, combined with increased automation, including fully-autonomous unmanned machines, leads to potential safety and security issues arising through human-machine encounters. Safety and security must be addressed before autonomous machines can be accepted by the market, regulators and the public, and become a reality on commercial farms.
Our proposal seeks to identify through a hackathon, solutions for public safety around autonomous farm machines. We will work with the Innovate-UK funded Hands Free Farm, a testbed for autonomous farm machinery and drones. The Hands Free Farm team will provide expert input, and will integrate the winning solution at the Hands Free Farm.