British horticultural growers are invited to attend open sessions being held in Cambridgeshire, Kent and West Sussex to hear Professor Salah Sukkarieh of the University of Sydney as he talks about how the commercialisation of cutting-edge field robotic systems are helping to address agricultural needs in Australia.

Sukkarieh’s visit comes as part of the AHDB Horticulture-hosted Smart Agriculture tour which will see him present a keynote speech at the Smart Agriculture Conference on Tuesday 8 September, followed by a three-day tour stopping off at G’s at Barway, East Malling Research near Maidstone and Growtrain in Chichester.

The exchange of innovation and technology is essential for any industry to overcome issues and adapt to future challenges. The purpose of the AHDB SmartAg conference and subsequent tour is to take the technologies and developments of other disciplines such as engineering, manufacturing, computer science or the medical arena to see how agriculture and horticulture and apply them to the future of precision farming.

Sukarrieh, who is Professor of Robotics and Intelligent Systems at the University of Sydney, and the Director of Research and Innovation at the Australian Centre for Field Robotics has extensive experience of applying technology into practical applications for the benefit of agriculture.

His research team has invented pilotless robotic aircraft that can detect and spray invasive weeds in remote locations and autonomous devices that will perform the manual tasks involved in large-scale horticultural production, such as pruning, thinning, harvesting, mowing, spraying and weeding.

One of these, named Ladybird, was designed and built for the Australian vegetable industry. The aim was to build a ground robot with supporting software and sensors able to undertake crop surveillance. “Ladybird is solar powered and has an array of sensors for detecting crop growth and pest or weed species,” Sukkarieh says. “It also has a robotic arm for removing weeds and the potential for autonomous harvesting.”

Professor Sukkarieh and his team are also working on ground-based robots that operate with unmanned aerial vehicles or ‘drones’, in orchards. “Now we can buy things like this off the shelf, the interest is in what type of sensors we can put on board and what we can do with that data.”

“Over the next five years we’ll start to see more and more robots on the farm, giving us greater crop intelligence for the grower and ability to work on the crop autonomously.”

Dr Bill Parker, Director of R&D and Knowledge Exchange for Crops at AHDB added, “Using advanced technology within the agricultural industries is nothing new, but increasingly it is becoming clear that other disciplines are developing interesting, practical technological applications that could have ground breaking implications for our sector. The aim of the SmartAg conference and grower tour is to inspire more ‘cross discipline’ thinking so that we don’t reinvent or search for technologies that actually are already in use in other fields.”

There are three opportunities for growers to catch Professor Salah Sukkarieh on his tour on the 9, 10, 11 September at the following venues:

9th September at G’s, Barway

  • 09:30 – Arrive/Coffee
  • 10:00 - Salah Sukkarieh – Robotics
  • 11:00 - Grower networking and Q&A
  • 11:45 – Close

10th September at East Malling Research Station, Kent

  • 10:00 - Arrive at EMR
  • 10:30 - Salah Sukkarieh – Robotics
  • 11:00 - Grower networking and Q&A
  • 11:30 – Close
11th September – Growtrain, West Sussex

  • 12:15 – Arrive at Growtrain – (8b Woodhorn Business Centre, Chichester, PO20 2B)
  • 12:30 – Lunch networking and Q&A
  • 14:00 – Close

To book, please email Ella Stanton: specifying which date you are attending.

For more information on AHDB Horticulture visit