Farmers are one of the first to use AI driverless tractors

Farmers are one of the first to use AI driverless tractors

A farmer has become one of the first in the UK to use a driverless tractor.

Will Mumford, an arable farmer in St Neots, Cambridgeshire, has used an autonomous vehicle to plant soil and another to plant seeds.

He said the robot is the future of agriculture because it can operate for up to 30 hours at a time and reduce damage to the soil.

However, it is believed that they need to lower the price before conventional machines are replaced en masse. The National Farmers Union says it welcomes technological advances but affordability is essential.

Autonomous tractors currently cost between £180,000 and £320,000.

Mr Mumford, who is also managing director of a company that supplies driverless tractors, said: “Industry in general is addicted to big machinery and over time starts to damage our soil structure and kill some biodiversity.

“These machines are much lighter and friendlier to the soil and we hope that over time we can restore some soil structure … and farm in a much better and sustainable way.”

Driverless tractors are about half the size of conventional tractors and are equipped with features such as radar, ultrasound and sensors, which stop the vehicle if it detects an object.

Mr Mumford insists the introduction of artificial intelligence will not lead to fewer farmers.

“We’re allowing them [farmers] to farm in a better way, so we’re shifting the mundane and slow work. They no longer have to sit on tractors for hours,” he added.

Tom Carnell, an agricultural engineer, said: “When things like this were initially launched, it took about five years to become really mainstream.

“And what we’re going to see is some early people who really benefit and believe in the technology, and as time goes on it’s going to become more and more common.”

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