SlugBot aims to put an end to slimy pests

CHAP is delighted to announce the launch of a new project to develop an autonomous slug monitoring and bio-molluscicide treatment system.

The SlugBot project is a collaboration with agricultural robotics start-up Small Robot Company (SRC), cutting-edge AI experts COSMONiO and farming enterprise AV and N Lee. CHAP’s involvement is – naturally – being led by Innovation Hub Lead Dr Jenna Ross, our very own Slug Queen. Funding is being provided following a successful bid to the Innovate UK SMART call and will run for 18 months from 1st April 2020.

Slugbot aims to develop an innovative technology for autonomous monitoring and precision treatment of slugs, which should significantly increase yields for farmers.

Slugs are major agricultural and horticultural pests worldwide. Current control methods rely on traditional chemical pellets, containing either metaldehyde or iron (Ferric) phosphate. Bio-molluscicides are also available in the form of the nematode products, however these are not economical for use in arable crops. The resulting over-reliance on metaldehyde has had a negative impact on UK water systems, as well as on non-target organisms, such as birds and mammals, and there have been moves to ban its use.

Technical development has just kicked off, with Phase one focusing on developing the artificial intelligence slug detection capability, working along with Dr Tom Ashfield at our CHAP Digital Phenotyping laboratory. Phase two will look to deliver slug detection using Small Robot Company’s ‘Tom’ robot, with mobile imaging of slugs and field-surface materials in glasshouse conditions anticipated by early 2021. Phase three will then focus on precision spraying, delivering an in-field slug treatment solution for autumn 2021.

Dr Jenna Ross said “This project fills a market demand and opens up an exciting opportunity for farmers. It is also a first for CHAP in its inclusion, from the outset, of end-users, in the form of farming enterprise, AV and N Lee, who will provide the land for field trials and input from the farming community”.

Mr James Lee, farmer and partner of AV and N Lee said “It is brilliant to be involved with a project that has farmers involved from the get-go. This is important when addressing key agricultural challenges, such as slug control, and vital for technology uptake.”

Mr Ben Scott-Robinson, CEO of CHAP member Small Robot Company added: “Precision robotics has tremendous potential for agriculture across the board. Slugs are a terrible bane for farmers: robotic slug control is a natural next step for Small Robot Company.”

To find out more about CHAP’s facilities being used in this project, go to Phenotyping Lab. To find out about becoming a CHAP member, go to Membership.

If you have any questions about working with CHAP, please send us an email using the enquiries form at the bottom of our homepage.