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An economic assessment of autonomous equipment for field crops

Project Description


Population growth and economic development are driving the demand for more and better quality food. Simultaneously, there is pressure to limit the environmental footprint of agriculture, manage existing land more intensely, use fewer inputs and apply those inputs only when and where they are most needed. Managing farms more intensely usually requires more workers, but in the UK and many other parts of the world agricultural labour is increasingly difficult to hire. Agricultural automation, robotics and co-robotics are often suggested as part of the sustainable intensification solution. Automating routine agricultural operations would reduce the labour constraint. Robots might make it economically feasible to manage individual plants and animals, instead of managing fields and herds. The technical ability to automate routine farm work and to enable autonomous agricultural robots is rapidly developing. This study will assess the economic implications of robotics for field crops and estimate the optimal level of human-robot collaboration in UK field crop production. Analysis will be based on data and experience from the Harper Adams University Hands Free Farm.

Aims and Objectives
The objective of this assessment would be to estimate the potential benefit of autonomous production of grain and oilseeds in the UK at the per hectare, farm and national level. This project addresses an urgent need in high tech entrepreneurship and also develops a commercially relevant researcher who would be well suited to working either as a career academic, a public sector/industry researcher, or an agri-tech entrepreneur.

The student will receive training in farm management, economic feasibility analysis, farm modelling and linear programming as well as experience of the challenges of participating in the development of and adaption of new technology in farm management.

Funding Notes

The studentship includes tuition, bench and writing up fees and a tax-free stipend at the RCUK 2020-2021 rate. This rate is not yet published but the rate for 2019-2020 is £15,009.

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