19.3.2024 | Ports

ABP pioneers grain-monitoring robot to revolutionise safety in agricultural storage

The ‘CROVER’ robot is the first robotic device able to ‘swim’ or move with minimal effort through grains stored in bulk, such as wheat, barley and oilseeds held in storage. 

Spearheading innovation in agricultural storage and safety at work, Associated British Ports (ABP), the UK’s largest port operator has teamed up with partners Crover Ltd, the robot’s creators, as well as Camgrain, Holkham Farming Company and Morley Farms to further develop and pilot a grain-monitoring robot that can substantially enhance workplace safety and enhance grain store.

The ‘CROVER’ robot is the first robotic device able to ‘swim’ or move with minimal effort through grains stored in bulk, such as wheat, barley and oilseeds held in storage and is intended to enable farmers and grain storage operators to improve the health and safety of their grain storage and transport operations.

The prototype, which is being tested at ABP’s Port of Ayr in Scotland will also help maintain grain quality during long-term storage, reduce energy costs from cooling and aeration and avoid unnecessary chemical interventions. This will reduce grain claims, rejections and labour costs from integrated pest management (IPM) grain storage operations.

Prior to the existence of this robot, checking the moisture levels of piles of grain was a manual process, which is both time-consuming and produces varying degrees of accuracy. It also increased the risk of avalanches when operatives had to climb up a stack of grain to take readings on moisture and heat. This robot enhances workplace safety because it has the ability to ‘climb’ to the top of a tall pile of grain and insert a metal rod vertically, which helps monitor the levels with a significant level of precision and eliminates the need for a manual process.

Duncan Welberry, ABP Head of IT Business Partnering, Data & Analytics, said: “Safety is a core value for ABP and because our ports naturally bring a wide variety of businesses across the supply chain together, they are ideal innovation hubs for developing tools and systems to enable safer workplace practices.

“This grain-monitoring bot is the latest addition to our smart tech devices, which include drones, wearables and more. We are excited about this collaboration and look forward to seeing what lessons it can reveal for the wider farming and grain storage industry.”

Connor Lyons, ABP Business Innovation Lead, commented: “Being part of the creative R&D process is always immensely rewarding. The idea to integrate the CROVER robot was born by developing a deep understanding of our customer’s challenges and the situations our colleagues in operations deal with every day. I am proud that we have been recognised and rewarded with a grant that will further accelerate innovation in this space.

“This project is an excellent celebration of science in practice. With British Science Week coming up in March, it’s a powerful reminder that ports are hubs for innovation and can offer a variety of exciting jobs, from Engineering to R&D.”

Dr Lorenzo Conti, Crover Founder & Managing Director: “We are delighted to have won this funding with ABP and are grateful to have a partner with the space, operations and vision to help us test this tool in a realistic environment and refine its capabilities.”

The project has been awarded £335K by Innovate UK as part of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)’s Farming Innovation Programme (FIP) fund. As the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK helps businesses to grow through the development and commercialisation of new products, processes and services, supported by an outstanding innovation ecosystem that is agile, inclusive and easy to navigate.

Image: ‘CROVER’ Robot