With harvest near, the Hands Free Hectare proves autonomous farming is possible


In the United Kingdom, the Hands Free Hectare project at Harper Adams University, which aims to be the first in the world to plant, tend and harvest a crop with only drones and autonomous vehicles, will harvest the spring barley over the next three weeks.

Kit Franklin, agricultural engineering lecturer and project lead, said, “The crop has done really well; it’s nearly matured and looking like it’s going to yield quite well. Obviously we do have the misses where the tractor wasn’t quite driving straight when we were drilling it but I think it’s going to yield reasonably well and harvest is fast approaching.”

Looking back on the challenges the project has thrown at the team, Kit added, “After successfully drilling and rolling the crop, we had to try and turn round the tractor and reconfigure it into a sprayer very quickly to try and get a pre-emergence spray on.”