Problems faced by UK farmers formed the raison d'etre for this research. Agriculture plays
an important role in the UK economy. However, due to difficulties securing the necessary
workforce, problems associated with hiring migrant labourers, and competition from cheap
imported produce, the UK's Gross Value Added (GVA) plummeted from £9.8 to £5.2
billion in the decade leading up to 2005. As a result, the automation of certain farming (and
horticultural) jobs is becoming a desirable alternative to man-power, in an aim to re-establish
the supply and demand for local and exported produce.
The need for low-cost, robust and manoeuvrable robots to attract farmers' interest in
agricultural/horticultural automation was met by the introduction of Ransomes Jacobsen's
Spider®, a grass cutting mower that could be converted into an autonomous robot. With the
appropriate transformation in hardware and computer software, it has provided the
opportunity for such research. [Continues.]
A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy at Loughborough University.