Smartfarm China project delivers agri-tech milestone with robotic spraying for smart farms

Case Studies

Small Robot Co (SRC), a British agritech start-up for sustainable farming, today announced the successful conclusion of its Smart Farms collaboration with Strathclyde University (UoS), Agri-EPI, and Chinese Partners (CP).

The project successfully developed a prototype for robotic microspraying for pests and diseases integrated with SRC’s commercial Tomv4 robot, a major technology milestone for Small Robot Co.

Launched in June 2021, the two year Innovate UK project developed an adept robotic system for monitoring, analysing, and treating pests and diseases in maize and wheat crops to proof of concept stage.

The design of sprayers, and algorithms for pest detection was led by Strathclyde University, while Small Robot Co provided the robotic hardware and integrated the algorithms into its Wilma AI system. Agri-EPI’s industry-leading expertise aided the analysis, development, and optimisation of data collection. With the sprayer boom design set for completion this year, the robotic platform is poised for commercial field trials.


Project details

The project’s IUK funding bolsters collaborative efforts to deepen insights into wheat and maize-related pests and diseases, alongside refining detection, and precision spraying systems. This heightened precision yields substantial environmental and commercial advantages. Moreover, the project’s potential expansion into Chinese/Asian markets augments global innovation and market growth.

To aid in this potential expansion, Agri-EPI’s Head of Agri-Tech (Crops), Claire Hodge and Content & Communications Executive, Tatiana Boyle, led workshops and meetings with the project’s Chinese partners in Nanjing and Beijing on a recent visit to China. On visits to Nanjing Agricultural University, National Engineering Research Centre for Information Technology in Agriculture (NERCITA), Nanjing’s Smart Agriculture Research Institute and the Beijing Academy of Agriculture and Forestry Sciences, opportunities were discussed for further collaboration and development of the smart robotic system for use on farm.

Claire Hodge, Head of Crops at Agri-EPI said:

“The technical advancements over the past five years since the project started are helping both UK and Chinese companies deliver products on farms which improve efficiency and can reduce labour. With shared challenges, the collaboration of expertise can help us progress farm technology faster.”

Ben Scott-Robinson, CEO of Small Robot Co. said:

“Microspraying could be game-changing for the industry. Pressure is increasing from regulators, leaving farmers short of options. Precision spraying could enable a new generation of spot treatment chemicals, reduce costs, and significantly reduce the impact on biodiversity,”


PerPlant Farming Milestone: Modular Robotic Platform

In a major milestone for SRC, for the first time it has integrated a third party tool to its commercial Tomv4 robotic platform. This demonstrates the versatility and potential of SRC’s modular robotic platform, accelerating deployment of robotic PerPlant action across the agritech industry.

SRC’s modular robotic platform has been designed and developed to be a robust tool which can carry payloads to complete various actions in the field, such as scouting, micro-spraying or non-chemical weeding. With this successful IUK project, SRC’s robotic platform capabilities for third parties have now been proven in the field. This means that third party companies can now integrate agritech tools with SRC’s robots to deliver more precise infield action.

Small Robot Co is reimagining farming with robotics and AI, making it more financially and environmentally sustainable. By providing field-scale actionable insights at a per plant level, spray technology can be optimised to reduce chemicals and waste. This PerPlant data enables farms to transition to regenerative practices safely and profitably. This aligns with the global vision of farming that promotes biodiversity and strives for Net Zero.

Ben Scott-Robinson concluded:

“This is a big technology milestone for our small robots with huge transformative potential. We can now integrate third party tools to our commercial Tom robot. This opens up robotic precision action for multiple use cases across the agritech industry.”


Related News