London: An experimental robotic farm run by UK scientists has been harvested for the first time, yielding about five tonnes of spring barley.
Everything from start to finish - including sowing, fertilising, collecting samples and harvesting - has been done by autonomous vehicles on the farm, researchers said.
Researchers from the Harper Adams University in the UK believe that the robotic technology improve yields in agriculture, which is necessary to avoid food crisis with the growing population in coming years.
For the project, dubbed Hands Free Hectare, researchers used commercially available agriculture machines and software used to guide amateur drones.
"In agriculture, nobody has really managed to solve the problem of autonomy," said Jonathan Gill, mechatronics researcher at Harper Adams University, who led the project.
The researchers purchased several small-size agricultural machines, including a tractor and a combine, a machine for harvesting grain crops, the 'Live Science' reported.
They then fitted the machines with actuators, electronics and robotic technology that would allow them to control the machines without the presence of a human operator.
"The vehicles navigate entirely based on the GPS, and they are just essentially driving towards targets that we predetermined," said Martin Abell, of Precision Decisions, an agricultural company that partnered with the university.
"At different GPS targets, there are different actions designed to be carried out," Abell said.
The Harper Adams team plans to use the robotically harvested spring barley to make a limited batch of "hands- free" beer that will be distributed to the project's partners.