Abstract

Agri-Food is the largest manufacturing sector in the UK. It supports a food chain that generates over £108bn p.a., with 3.9m employees in a truly international industry and exports £20bn of UK manufactured goods. However, the global food chain is under pressure from population growth, climate change, political pressures affecting migration, population drift from rural to urban regions and the demographics of an aging global population. These challenges are recognised in the UK Industrial Strategy white paper and backed by significant investment via a Wave 2 Industrial Challenge Fund Investment (“Transforming Food Production: from Farm to Fork”). Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) and associated digital technologies are now seen as enablers of this critical food chain transformation. To meet these challenges, this white paper reviews the state of the art in the application of RAS in Agri-Food production and explores research and innovation needs to ensure these technologies reach their full potential and deliver the necessary impacts in the
Agri-Food sector.

The opportunities for RAS range include; the development of field robots that can
assist workers by carrying payloads and conduct agricultural operations such as crop and animal sensing, weeding and drilling; integration of autonomous systems technologies into existing farm
operational equipment such as tractors; robotic systems to harvest crops and conduct complex dextrous operations; the use of collaborative and “human in the loop” robotic applications to augment worker productivity; advanced robotic applications, including the use of soft robotics, to drive productivity beyond the farm gate into the factory and retail environment; and increasing the levels of automation and reducing the reliance on human labour and skill sets, for example,
in farming management, planning and decision making. RAS technology has the potential to
transform food production and the UK has an opportunity to establish global leadership within the domain. However, there are particular barriers to overcome to secure this vision:

1. The UK RAS community with an interest in Agri-Food is small and highly dispersed. There is an urgent need to defragment and then expand the community.

2. The UK RAS community has no specific training paths or Centres for Doctoral Training to provide trained human resource capacity within Agri-Food.

3. While there has been substantial government investment in translational activities at high Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs), there is insufficient ongoing basic research in Agri-Food
RAS at low TRLs to underpin onward innovation delivery for industry.

4. There is a concern that RAS for Agri-Food is not realising its full potential, as the projects being commissioned currently are too few and too small-scale. RAS challenges often involve the complex integration of multiple discrete technologies (e.g. navigation, safe operation, grasping and manipulation, perception). There is a need to further develop these discrete technologies but also to deliver large-scale industrial applications that resolve integration and interoperability issues. The UK
community needs to undertake a few well-chosen large-scale and collaborative “moon shot” projects.

5. The successful delivery of RAS projects within Agri-Food requires close collaboration between the RAS community and with academic and industry practitioners. For example, the breeding of crops with novel phenotypes, such as fruits which are easy to see and pick by robots, may simplify and accelerate the application of RAS technologies. Therefore, there is an urgent need to seek new ways to create RAS and Agri-Food domain networks that can work collaboratively to address
key challenges. This is especially important for Agri-Food since success in the sector requires highly complex cross-disciplinary activity. Furthermore, within UKRI many of the Research Councils and Innovate UK directly fund different aspects of Agri-Food, but as yet there is no coordinated and integrated Agri-Food research policy per se.

Our vision is a new generation of smart, flexible, robust, compliant, interconnected robotic and autonomous systems working seamlessly alongside their human co-workers in farms and food factories. Teams of multi-modal, interoperable robotic systems will self-organise and coordinate
their activities with the “human in the loop”. Electric farm and factory robots with interchangeable tools, including low-tillage solutions, soft robotic grasping technologies and sensors, will support the sustainable intensification of agriculture, drive manufacturing productivity and underpin future food security. To deliver this vision the research and innovation needs include the development of robust robotic platforms, suited to agricultural environments, and improved capabilities for sensing and perception, planning and coordination, manipulation and grasping, learning and adaptation, interoperability between robots and existing machinery, and human-robot collaboration, including the key issues of safety and user acceptance.

Technology adoption is likely to occur in measured steps. Most farmers and food producers will need technologies that can be introduced gradually, alongside and within their existing production systems. Thus, for the foreseeable future, humans and robots will frequently operate collaboratively to perform tasks, and that collaboration must be safe. There will be a transition period in which humans and robots work together as first simple and then more complex parts of work are conducted by robots, driving productivity and enabling human jobs to move up the value chain.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherUK-RAS Network
Commissioning bodyEngineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
Number of pages36
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jun 2018

Publication series

NameUK-RAS White Papers
PublisherUK-RAS Network
ISSN (Print)2398-4414

Fingerprint

Robotics
Agriculture
robots
agriculture
Food
Technology
Robots
food production
food chain
Farms
industry
factories
farms
Food Chain
human resources
food industry
sustainable agricultural intensification
manufacturing
Productivity
planning

Keywords

  • Robotics
  • Agricultural Technology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)

Cite this

Duckett, T., Pearson, S., Blackmore, S., Grieve, B., Wilson, P., Gill, H., ... Georgilas, I. (2018). Agricultural Robotics: The Future of Robotic Agriculture. (UK-RAS White Papers). London: UK-RAS Network.

Agricultural Robotics: The Future of Robotic Agriculture. / Duckett, Tom; Pearson, Simon; Blackmore, Simon; Grieve, Bruce; Wilson, Peter; Gill, Harinderjit; Hunter, Alan J.; Georgilas, Ioannis.

London : UK-RAS Network, 2018. 36 p. (UK-RAS White Papers).

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report

Duckett, T, Pearson, S, Blackmore, S, Grieve, B, Wilson, P, Gill, H, Hunter, AJ & Georgilas, I 2018, Agricultural Robotics: The Future of Robotic Agriculture. UK-RAS White Papers, UK-RAS Network, London.
Duckett T, Pearson S, Blackmore S, Grieve B, Wilson P, Gill H et al. Agricultural Robotics: The Future of Robotic Agriculture. London: UK-RAS Network, 2018. 36 p. (UK-RAS White Papers).
Duckett, Tom ; Pearson, Simon ; Blackmore, Simon ; Grieve, Bruce ; Wilson, Peter ; Gill, Harinderjit ; Hunter, Alan J. ; Georgilas, Ioannis. / Agricultural Robotics: The Future of Robotic Agriculture. London : UK-RAS Network, 2018. 36 p. (UK-RAS White Papers).
@book{ebac9288bd3842ba8b3aafd65f0d7859,
title = "Agricultural Robotics: The Future of Robotic Agriculture",
abstract = "Agri-Food is the largest manufacturing sector in the UK. It supports a food chain that generates over £108bn p.a., with 3.9m employees in a truly international industry and exports £20bn of UK manufactured goods. However, the global food chain is under pressure from population growth, climate change, political pressures affecting migration, population drift from rural to urban regions and the demographics of an aging global population. These challenges are recognised in the UK Industrial Strategy white paper and backed by significant investment via a Wave 2 Industrial Challenge Fund Investment (“Transforming Food Production: from Farm to Fork”). Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) and associated digital technologies are now seen as enablers of this critical food chain transformation. To meet these challenges, this white paper reviews the state of the art in the application of RAS in Agri-Food production and explores research and innovation needs to ensure these technologies reach their full potential and deliver the necessary impacts in theAgri-Food sector.The opportunities for RAS range include; the development of field robots that canassist workers by carrying payloads and conduct agricultural operations such as crop and animal sensing, weeding and drilling; integration of autonomous systems technologies into existing farmoperational equipment such as tractors; robotic systems to harvest crops and conduct complex dextrous operations; the use of collaborative and “human in the loop” robotic applications to augment worker productivity; advanced robotic applications, including the use of soft robotics, to drive productivity beyond the farm gate into the factory and retail environment; and increasing the levels of automation and reducing the reliance on human labour and skill sets, for example,in farming management, planning and decision making. RAS technology has the potential totransform food production and the UK has an opportunity to establish global leadership within the domain. However, there are particular barriers to overcome to secure this vision:1. The UK RAS community with an interest in Agri-Food is small and highly dispersed. There is an urgent need to defragment and then expand the community.2. The UK RAS community has no specific training paths or Centres for Doctoral Training to provide trained human resource capacity within Agri-Food.3. While there has been substantial government investment in translational activities at high Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs), there is insufficient ongoing basic research in Agri-FoodRAS at low TRLs to underpin onward innovation delivery for industry.4. There is a concern that RAS for Agri-Food is not realising its full potential, as the projects being commissioned currently are too few and too small-scale. RAS challenges often involve the complex integration of multiple discrete technologies (e.g. navigation, safe operation, grasping and manipulation, perception). There is a need to further develop these discrete technologies but also to deliver large-scale industrial applications that resolve integration and interoperability issues. The UKcommunity needs to undertake a few well-chosen large-scale and collaborative “moon shot” projects.5. The successful delivery of RAS projects within Agri-Food requires close collaboration between the RAS community and with academic and industry practitioners. For example, the breeding of crops with novel phenotypes, such as fruits which are easy to see and pick by robots, may simplify and accelerate the application of RAS technologies. Therefore, there is an urgent need to seek new ways to create RAS and Agri-Food domain networks that can work collaboratively to addresskey challenges. This is especially important for Agri-Food since success in the sector requires highly complex cross-disciplinary activity. Furthermore, within UKRI many of the Research Councils and Innovate UK directly fund different aspects of Agri-Food, but as yet there is no coordinated and integrated Agri-Food research policy per se.Our vision is a new generation of smart, flexible, robust, compliant, interconnected robotic and autonomous systems working seamlessly alongside their human co-workers in farms and food factories. Teams of multi-modal, interoperable robotic systems will self-organise and coordinatetheir activities with the “human in the loop”. Electric farm and factory robots with interchangeable tools, including low-tillage solutions, soft robotic grasping technologies and sensors, will support the sustainable intensification of agriculture, drive manufacturing productivity and underpin future food security. To deliver this vision the research and innovation needs include the development of robust robotic platforms, suited to agricultural environments, and improved capabilities for sensing and perception, planning and coordination, manipulation and grasping, learning and adaptation, interoperability between robots and existing machinery, and human-robot collaboration, including the key issues of safety and user acceptance.Technology adoption is likely to occur in measured steps. Most farmers and food producers will need technologies that can be introduced gradually, alongside and within their existing production systems. Thus, for the foreseeable future, humans and robots will frequently operate collaboratively to perform tasks, and that collaboration must be safe. There will be a transition period in which humans and robots work together as first simple and then more complex parts of work are conducted by robots, driving productivity and enabling human jobs to move up the value chain.",
keywords = "Robotics, Agricultural Technology",
author = "Tom Duckett and Simon Pearson and Simon Blackmore and Bruce Grieve and Peter Wilson and Harinderjit Gill and Hunter, {Alan J.} and Ioannis Georgilas",
year = "2018",
month = "6",
day = "21",
language = "English",
series = "UK-RAS White Papers",
publisher = "UK-RAS Network",
address = "UK United Kingdom",

}

TY - BOOK

T1 - Agricultural Robotics: The Future of Robotic Agriculture

AU - Duckett, Tom

AU - Pearson, Simon

AU - Blackmore, Simon

AU - Grieve, Bruce

AU - Wilson, Peter

AU - Gill, Harinderjit

AU - Hunter, Alan J.

AU - Georgilas, Ioannis

PY - 2018/6/21

Y1 - 2018/6/21

N2 - Agri-Food is the largest manufacturing sector in the UK. It supports a food chain that generates over £108bn p.a., with 3.9m employees in a truly international industry and exports £20bn of UK manufactured goods. However, the global food chain is under pressure from population growth, climate change, political pressures affecting migration, population drift from rural to urban regions and the demographics of an aging global population. These challenges are recognised in the UK Industrial Strategy white paper and backed by significant investment via a Wave 2 Industrial Challenge Fund Investment (“Transforming Food Production: from Farm to Fork”). Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) and associated digital technologies are now seen as enablers of this critical food chain transformation. To meet these challenges, this white paper reviews the state of the art in the application of RAS in Agri-Food production and explores research and innovation needs to ensure these technologies reach their full potential and deliver the necessary impacts in theAgri-Food sector.The opportunities for RAS range include; the development of field robots that canassist workers by carrying payloads and conduct agricultural operations such as crop and animal sensing, weeding and drilling; integration of autonomous systems technologies into existing farmoperational equipment such as tractors; robotic systems to harvest crops and conduct complex dextrous operations; the use of collaborative and “human in the loop” robotic applications to augment worker productivity; advanced robotic applications, including the use of soft robotics, to drive productivity beyond the farm gate into the factory and retail environment; and increasing the levels of automation and reducing the reliance on human labour and skill sets, for example,in farming management, planning and decision making. RAS technology has the potential totransform food production and the UK has an opportunity to establish global leadership within the domain. However, there are particular barriers to overcome to secure this vision:1. The UK RAS community with an interest in Agri-Food is small and highly dispersed. There is an urgent need to defragment and then expand the community.2. The UK RAS community has no specific training paths or Centres for Doctoral Training to provide trained human resource capacity within Agri-Food.3. While there has been substantial government investment in translational activities at high Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs), there is insufficient ongoing basic research in Agri-FoodRAS at low TRLs to underpin onward innovation delivery for industry.4. There is a concern that RAS for Agri-Food is not realising its full potential, as the projects being commissioned currently are too few and too small-scale. RAS challenges often involve the complex integration of multiple discrete technologies (e.g. navigation, safe operation, grasping and manipulation, perception). There is a need to further develop these discrete technologies but also to deliver large-scale industrial applications that resolve integration and interoperability issues. The UKcommunity needs to undertake a few well-chosen large-scale and collaborative “moon shot” projects.5. The successful delivery of RAS projects within Agri-Food requires close collaboration between the RAS community and with academic and industry practitioners. For example, the breeding of crops with novel phenotypes, such as fruits which are easy to see and pick by robots, may simplify and accelerate the application of RAS technologies. Therefore, there is an urgent need to seek new ways to create RAS and Agri-Food domain networks that can work collaboratively to addresskey challenges. This is especially important for Agri-Food since success in the sector requires highly complex cross-disciplinary activity. Furthermore, within UKRI many of the Research Councils and Innovate UK directly fund different aspects of Agri-Food, but as yet there is no coordinated and integrated Agri-Food research policy per se.Our vision is a new generation of smart, flexible, robust, compliant, interconnected robotic and autonomous systems working seamlessly alongside their human co-workers in farms and food factories. Teams of multi-modal, interoperable robotic systems will self-organise and coordinatetheir activities with the “human in the loop”. Electric farm and factory robots with interchangeable tools, including low-tillage solutions, soft robotic grasping technologies and sensors, will support the sustainable intensification of agriculture, drive manufacturing productivity and underpin future food security. To deliver this vision the research and innovation needs include the development of robust robotic platforms, suited to agricultural environments, and improved capabilities for sensing and perception, planning and coordination, manipulation and grasping, learning and adaptation, interoperability between robots and existing machinery, and human-robot collaboration, including the key issues of safety and user acceptance.Technology adoption is likely to occur in measured steps. Most farmers and food producers will need technologies that can be introduced gradually, alongside and within their existing production systems. Thus, for the foreseeable future, humans and robots will frequently operate collaboratively to perform tasks, and that collaboration must be safe. There will be a transition period in which humans and robots work together as first simple and then more complex parts of work are conducted by robots, driving productivity and enabling human jobs to move up the value chain.

AB - Agri-Food is the largest manufacturing sector in the UK. It supports a food chain that generates over £108bn p.a., with 3.9m employees in a truly international industry and exports £20bn of UK manufactured goods. However, the global food chain is under pressure from population growth, climate change, political pressures affecting migration, population drift from rural to urban regions and the demographics of an aging global population. These challenges are recognised in the UK Industrial Strategy white paper and backed by significant investment via a Wave 2 Industrial Challenge Fund Investment (“Transforming Food Production: from Farm to Fork”). Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) and associated digital technologies are now seen as enablers of this critical food chain transformation. To meet these challenges, this white paper reviews the state of the art in the application of RAS in Agri-Food production and explores research and innovation needs to ensure these technologies reach their full potential and deliver the necessary impacts in theAgri-Food sector.The opportunities for RAS range include; the development of field robots that canassist workers by carrying payloads and conduct agricultural operations such as crop and animal sensing, weeding and drilling; integration of autonomous systems technologies into existing farmoperational equipment such as tractors; robotic systems to harvest crops and conduct complex dextrous operations; the use of collaborative and “human in the loop” robotic applications to augment worker productivity; advanced robotic applications, including the use of soft robotics, to drive productivity beyond the farm gate into the factory and retail environment; and increasing the levels of automation and reducing the reliance on human labour and skill sets, for example,in farming management, planning and decision making. RAS technology has the potential totransform food production and the UK has an opportunity to establish global leadership within the domain. However, there are particular barriers to overcome to secure this vision:1. The UK RAS community with an interest in Agri-Food is small and highly dispersed. There is an urgent need to defragment and then expand the community.2. The UK RAS community has no specific training paths or Centres for Doctoral Training to provide trained human resource capacity within Agri-Food.3. While there has been substantial government investment in translational activities at high Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs), there is insufficient ongoing basic research in Agri-FoodRAS at low TRLs to underpin onward innovation delivery for industry.4. There is a concern that RAS for Agri-Food is not realising its full potential, as the projects being commissioned currently are too few and too small-scale. RAS challenges often involve the complex integration of multiple discrete technologies (e.g. navigation, safe operation, grasping and manipulation, perception). There is a need to further develop these discrete technologies but also to deliver large-scale industrial applications that resolve integration and interoperability issues. The UKcommunity needs to undertake a few well-chosen large-scale and collaborative “moon shot” projects.5. The successful delivery of RAS projects within Agri-Food requires close collaboration between the RAS community and with academic and industry practitioners. For example, the breeding of crops with novel phenotypes, such as fruits which are easy to see and pick by robots, may simplify and accelerate the application of RAS technologies. Therefore, there is an urgent need to seek new ways to create RAS and Agri-Food domain networks that can work collaboratively to addresskey challenges. This is especially important for Agri-Food since success in the sector requires highly complex cross-disciplinary activity. Furthermore, within UKRI many of the Research Councils and Innovate UK directly fund different aspects of Agri-Food, but as yet there is no coordinated and integrated Agri-Food research policy per se.Our vision is a new generation of smart, flexible, robust, compliant, interconnected robotic and autonomous systems working seamlessly alongside their human co-workers in farms and food factories. Teams of multi-modal, interoperable robotic systems will self-organise and coordinatetheir activities with the “human in the loop”. Electric farm and factory robots with interchangeable tools, including low-tillage solutions, soft robotic grasping technologies and sensors, will support the sustainable intensification of agriculture, drive manufacturing productivity and underpin future food security. To deliver this vision the research and innovation needs include the development of robust robotic platforms, suited to agricultural environments, and improved capabilities for sensing and perception, planning and coordination, manipulation and grasping, learning and adaptation, interoperability between robots and existing machinery, and human-robot collaboration, including the key issues of safety and user acceptance.Technology adoption is likely to occur in measured steps. Most farmers and food producers will need technologies that can be introduced gradually, alongside and within their existing production systems. Thus, for the foreseeable future, humans and robots will frequently operate collaboratively to perform tasks, and that collaboration must be safe. There will be a transition period in which humans and robots work together as first simple and then more complex parts of work are conducted by robots, driving productivity and enabling human jobs to move up the value chain.

KW - Robotics

KW - Agricultural Technology

M3 - Commissioned report

T3 - UK-RAS White Papers

BT - Agricultural Robotics: The Future of Robotic Agriculture

PB - UK-RAS Network

CY - London

ER -