Earth Rover Earth Rover – Tractor and Rover scouting and crop management

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This ESA activity involves running commercial trials of our scouting and weeding system for organic brassicas (initially broccoli) between 2019 and 2020.

Our service is immediately addressing the sector of organic vegetable farming, which has the following characteristics: (1) it is fragmented by crop and geography (2) labour cost and availability has made manual weeding and harvesting of all organic vegetables very difficult (3) most farms belong to large owner-operator farming companies while smaller farms are organised under large farming collectives.

The scouting data can inform yield forecasting models. This project will create and evaluate yield forecasting models based on ground-based rover scouting data.

After these trials, we aim to publicly launch these services by Q1 2020, rolled out to farms we are already engaged with.

The scouting data from this first service is also critical to launching higher-value services like selective harvesting. 

Users and their needs

How do you walk 2,000 hectares of crop every week? You can’t – it’s too big and expensive to cover with people. This means farmers don’t get good data about what’s in their fields.

Instead, they rely on estimates. Not having accurate data means:

  • overplanting crops – to meet stringent retailer contracts
  • poor input choices – lack of precision e.g. fertilisers reduce margins
  • poor harvesting choices – farmers harvest blind, out of spec crop is wasted


Accurate data is also the essential starting point for autonomous farming.

Service/ system concept

How do you walk 2,000 hectares of crop every week? You can’t – it’s too big and expensive to cover with people. This means farmers don’t get good data about what’s in their fields.

Instead, they rely on estimates. Not having accurate data means:

  1. overplanting crops – to meet stringent retailer contracts
  2. poor input choices – lack of precision e.g. fertilisers reduce margins
  3. poor harvesting choices – farmers harvest blind, out of spec crop is wasted


Accurate data is also the essential starting point for autonomous farming.

Space Added Value

The project utilised RTK GPS to use as localisation data for the plant level data from the tractor-mounted and rover-mounted system. The localisation data is also used for fleet management. 

The project uses technology derived from the ExoMars project to build the fourth generation of the rover system.

Current Status

The first phase is to ruggedise our core technology stack - primarily the scouting system and rover. We have completed both of these tasks. Below are images of the ruggedized designs and early prototypes.

The second phase is to deploy this successfully on farms to show we are creating value for the farmers. We have built the scouting system (tractor) prototype and deployed it. We have then built a production-ready system which has been built and deployed. We have take the ruggedized rover system and are currently building the Gen4 rover. 

The third phase is developing the commercial structures needed to begin to sell and maintain the product. We have received our first purchase order due to a successful demo with multiple farmers.

The project has successfully completed Baseline Design Review, thus entering the second phase of the project.

Prime Contractor

Project Managers

Contractor Project Manager

Imtiaz Shams
Agri Epi Centre Ltd Poultry Drive
Edgmond, Newport
TF10 8JZ
United Kingdom
+44 7551298296

ESA Project Manager

Fausto Vieira
ESA/ESTEC, Keplerlaan 1
2201 AZ Noordwijk
Netherlands

Status Date

Updated: 19 November 2019 - Created: 19 November 2019