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Driverless tractors and robot crop-pickers...

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THE use of robots and automated agricultural machinery is on the agenda at the 2017 Jersey Farming Conference, which takes place next month.

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Speakers will include experts from agricultural suppliers at the forefront of the technological farming revolution taking place in the UK and around the developed world.

Driverless tractors and automated planting, harvesting and picking equipment, programmed by computer and precision-guided by GPS are increasingly replacing manpower to make farming practices more efficient, cost-effective and environmentally-friendly.

Dr Charles Fox, director of Sheffield-based Ibex Automation, is scheduled to speak about an automated weed-spraying system that has been developed from a robotic bomb disposal machine used by the military.

The machine uses on-board cameras and terrain navigation programmed to Ordnance Survey maps and satellite images to detect and destroy weeds.

Earlier this year, Island farmers undertook trials in the precision application of fertiliser to the annual potato crop and Mike Renouard of the Jersey Royal Company is due to update the conference on the results.

‘The industry is dynamic and we’ve seen it take great strides in reducing pesticide and fertiliser use – but we’ll need to be even more responsive if we’re going to thrive in the uncertain world that Brexit has created,’ Jersey Farmers Union president Peter Le Maistre said.

The all-day conference will take place on Friday 10 November at La Mare Wine Estate in St Mary. Other topics on the agenda include water quality, the sustainability of the dairy industry and the Island’s Rural Economy Strategy.

Paul Stanfield of Wessex Water will address the conference, explaining how the UK utility company is working with farmers to solve water-quality issues at source. Mark Bowden from Jersey Water will be speaking about the local situation.

‘The annual Jersey Farming Conference has become an established part of the agricultural calendar, offering top-quality presentations that propose new ideas and initiatives that stimulate discussion in the countryside,’ Environment Minister Steve Luce said.

‘This year is no exception, and I look forward to hearing more about how we can continue to keep our farms profitable while, at the same time, benefiting the environment.’

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