The UK's first commercially available robotic tractor has started work.

The Robotti 150D is the first robotic tractor to be fully operational on a British farm.

It's been bought by the owners of Home Farm Nacton in Suffolk.

Producing both organic and conventional vegetables, including leeks, brassicas, onions, red beet, potatoes, fodder beet, sugar beet and cereals, across 1940ha, Home Farm was looking for ways to adopt more advanced technology into the business.

Andrew Williams, farm director at Home Farm, said: “A large amount of our produce is organic, so we are increasingly limited in how we can control weeds.

"Mechanical weeding is repetitive work, as is manual weeding, and sourcing seasonal, overseas labour is becoming increasingly difficult."

The robotic tractor has now been working on the farm since mid-April, weeding a number of vegetable crops using a harrow attachment.

Andrew continued: “It will initially be used for weeding this year, but we also plan to use it for topping and drilling in the future, maybe even transplanting or – who knows?”

Designed and manufactured by Denmark-based Agrointelli, the tractor autonomously controlled by GPS via an onboard computer, not depending on a human driver but instead following a pre-programmed planned route in the field.

The model at Home Farm has two Kubota 75 HP Diesel or bio-fuel engines. The left engine propels the machine and powers the conventional three-point hitch, meaning it can be fitted with standard implements and perform multiple tasks in the field throughout the season. The right engine drives the PTO.

Each engine takes 110 litres of fuel, which is enough for the machine to run continuously for approximately 24 hours.

“The accuracy lies in the GPS mapped field, with Robotti taking the same exact lines every time,” explains Frederik Rom, sales manager for Agrointelli.

“It is equipped with RTK GPS, so the set up on any farm is simple.

"It took approximately 10 minutes to map a 4-acre field at Home Farm, and a further 10 minutes to log the weeding plan into the system."

Field obstacles such as telegraph poles or trees are logged at the programming stage.

Any other obstacles outside of this will make the tractor stop in its tracks for safety, until the obstacle is removed from its path.

In the office at Home Farm, Andrew has access to the online portal, providing real-time updates of the machine’s progress.

“I can leave Robotti working in the field quite happily, knowing that it will send me an alert if there is an issue, or if something unexpected is in its way.

"It has front and rear cameras, which I can view at any time. I am able to check the progress of crop growth at any location within that field, without having to walk to see it,” said Andrew.

“The portal tells me how much fuel is in the tank, how many hours it has done, and how much time it has left before the fuel runs out.

"It will also tell me when it’s finished one field, so I can ensure it’s taken to the next field to start its new job.”

While Home Farm Nacton is largely light land, development trials in Denmark show that the tractor also works well on heavier land, and is especially effective with bed systems and row crops, as it carries the implement in the centre, evenly distributing the weight on all four wheels.

The low ground pressure, low weight, and 4WD, means it is less likely to get stuck than a conventional tractor, also reducing the risk of soil compaction and structural damage to the soil.