Garford Farm Machinery

Royal Visit to Garford Farm Machinery by HRH The Duke of Gloucester

Posted on: March 14th 2011    •    Posted in: Company News

His Royal Highness The Duke of Gloucester paid a visit to Garford Farm Machinery on Thursday, 10th March to meet management and staff involved in the production of their Queen’s Award winning product, the Robocrop InRow Weeder.

Garford Farm Machinery based at Frognall, Deeping St James, was officially honoured with the Queen’s Award for Enterprise last year.  The company was recognised for outstanding achievement in innovation, for their product the Robocrop InRow Weeder. As a follow-up to this, HRH The Duke of Gloucester visited the factory to see at first hand the many advantages of the machine, built for the way forward in the environmental field.

The Royal visit started with HRH being introduced by the Lord-Lieutenant, Mr Tony Worth, to Philip Garford, Managing Director of Garford Farm Machinery, who went on to give background information on the small, family-run firm. Norman Garford, founder of the company in 1986 and Ted Chamberlain, former partner, were also introduced to HRH and were able to explain their early work in developing and manufacturing Skew Bar toppers, an improved piece of machinery for the sugar beet farmer.

Michael Garford, Design and Technical Director, explained to The Duke the initial work which goes into designing new machinery, he was then able to see the transfer of this to the factory for the manufacturing process.  The Duke later met staff and discussed their direct involvement in the manufacturing and assembly of the Robocrop InRow Weeder, along with other machinery in the Garford range.  There was also bygone machinery on show made by the family, dating back to the 1950s.

Reflecting on the visit, Philip Garford, Managing Director, said “It was a huge honour for us all to get the opportunity to show HRH what is involved in making a machine like the Robocrop InRow Weeder and I hope he found the visit of interest”. “We are determined to grow the business in the future and continue to make technology-based equipment to help the modern farmer to secure an environmentally sustainable future”.

The revolutionary Robocrop InRow Weeder is the first commercial machine to use vision analysis techniques to manage weed removal between vegetable plants.  With environmental practices high on the agenda and with European legislation eroding the armoury of herbicides available to vegetable growers, the Robocrop InRow Weeder shows the way ahead with mechanical weeding.

Before leaving HRH unveiled a plaque to mark his visit. Janet Garford, Finance Director, commented “It had been a privilege to have HRH Duke of Gloucester visit our small family-run business. We hope he got a good insight into the very committed and dedicated work carried out by our local staff, many of whom have worked for the company for many years”.

Technical Information

The Robocrop InRow Weeder uses digital cameras and image analysis to locate crop plants and uses this information to control special weeding discs which hoe the area between the plants in order to kill competing weeds.  This process is beneficial in breaking up the soil and improving plant growth, with many vegetable growers claiming considerable growth stimulation.  Consumers are therefore able to buy produce grown without the use of herbicides whilst at the same time the grower is able to maintain profitable production.

In detail

  • A digital video camera views the crop area (up to 2 mtrs square) just ahead of the weeder.
  • A computer analyses the images at 25 frames per second looking for clusters of green pixels.
  • The pattern of green pixel clusters is compared to a predetermined grid which relates to the nominal crop row width and in row plant spacings.
  • A best match scenario is determined between image and predetermined grid.
  • The individual plant positions are tracked as they travel down through the image.
  • The computer monitors and controls the position of specially designed weeding rotors, which loop around the plants as they pass by.
  • Adjustment is provided to set the proximity of the weeding action to the plants.
  • The vision system also steers the complete weeder via soil engaging discs.
  • Weeding efficiency of up to 98% surface area is completed by fixed inter row shares.

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