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An overzealous approach to regulation is hampering the commercialisation of crop robots across Europe, UK researchers have told German scientists.

An overzealous approach to regulation is hampering the commercialisation of crop robots across Europe, UK researchers have told German scientists.

The regulation of crop robots was highlighted during an online presentation by James Lowenberg-DeBoer, holder of the Elizabeth Creak Chair in agri-tech applied economics at Harper Adams University.

The use of crop robots has not yet been fully realised – and the right regulatory environment needed to maximise their effect will need careful consideration, he said.

The presentation –  to members of the Bavarian State Research Centre for Agriculture – drew on work completed by Harper Adams academics alongside colleagues in the UK, Europe and the USA.

Hands-free farm

Agricultural robots face similar regulatory challenges to driverless cars. The technology is more advanced than the legal framework they operate within – posing challenges for lawmakers as well as regulators.

Professor Lowenberg-DeBoer used the Harper Adams Hands Free Farm model – which uses robots to grow crops without human intervention – to estimate the impact of regulation on the sector.

“Crop robots have the potential to transform UK agriculture and create entrepreneurial opportunities on
small and medium sized farms,” he said. “But it needs the right kind of regulation to foster the development and use of the technology.” Professor Lowenberg-DeBoer is in the process of preparing the research he presented upon for publication. The session was viewed by researchers and professionals from across Europe.

The British Standards Institute is starting the process of creating a code of practice for autonomous crop equipment in the UK based on some of the findings presented during the session. This should make it easier to commercialise agricultural robots.