The collapse of the Small Robot Company does not spell the end of the James Hutton Institute’s (JHI) pioneering autonomous robot project. The Edinburgh based start-up fell into liquidation following investors pulling out and a failed crowdfunding campaign which left the small firm unable to continue operations.

The firm developed a series of on-farm robots with their Tom v4 agritech machine being showcased on the JHI stand at the Royal Highland Show last year. Through discussions with the research partner National Robotarium, the research will be able to continue.

The Scottish Farmer: Andrew Christie, Agronomist and Agri-Tech Specialist at JHIAndrew Christie, Agronomist and Agri-Tech Specialist at JHI

Andrew Christie, Agronomist and Agri-Tech Specialist at JHI said: “We recognise the Small Robot Company’s unfortunate circumstances and it demonstrates just how hard it is for technological companies to get off the ground, even when the product is as revolutionary as this.

“However, we have been speaking with our collaborators at the National Robotarium, and with their engineering and technical support, the robot asset will remain at the Hutton to continue as a precision research tool, assisting our ongoing crop breeding and biodiversity monitoring work.

“We will consider the challenges posed by this situation and consider whether there are opportunities for us to develop solutions that may potentially fit alongside other robotic platforms and software interfaces.”

The Scottish Farmer: Tom v4 agritech robotTom v4 agritech robot

In a statement, the Small Robot Company said: “We have created something remarkable in the last 6 years. We co-designed our service with farmers, successfully delivering their ‘Holy Grail’, a world first: grass weed detection at field scale.

“This went commercially live in September, with huge potential: UK blackgrass alone loses farmers £400 million each year. Service last season demonstrated up to 90% herbicide and 24% fertiliser savings.

“We believe we developed something that will be a cornerstone of how farms are run in the future, but unfortunately with this attempt, we were too early for the market.

“Our chapter in the fourth agricultural revolution is over. We hope we have inspired others to continue the mission. Thank you for supporting our journey.”