FD20 In Action

Growing onions in clusters


For the first time, 2022 saw a commercial onion grower in the East of England approach their onion crop in a completely new and autonomously powered way – trusting in a FarmDroid. The FarmDroid is a solar-powered seed-n-weed robot with simplicity on its side. Good for soil health and the bottom line! 

Before the FarmDroid was put to work, the seedbed in the 8ha field was prepared and then mapped using an RTK guidance system, taking into account natural obstacles to remove them from the cropping area.

Other than checking on the FD robot, keeping tabs on it via the mobile phone app, and topping up the seed hoppers, manpower was kept to a minimum.  Being solar powered, no diesel was used in the production of these onions!  

Below is a timeline of the crop's emergence and growth throughout the 2022 season.

Organic Onions - Timeline

25th March - Onions drilled in clusters

Configured to seed 6 rows of onions at a time, the FarmDroid was set to seed in clusters of 3-4 onions, with a cluster spacing of 15cm.  Experience shows that onions grown in clusters achieve a greater yield.

5th April - Blind weeding

As the FarmDroid knows the precise location of each seed in the field, it can begin the process of blind weeding the field. This process of pre-emergence weeding uses wires just below the surface – with the precise location of each seed stored in its memory, the FD knows where not to weed or disturb the emerging seed. This allows the crop to get off to the best possible start removing competition from weeds.


Traditionally, the crop would have had to emerge before weeding, and even with camera guidance systems, the crop would have to grow to a certain stage before weeding could get underway.

22nd April - Emergence and intra-row weeding

The onion crop saw excellent emergence along with accurate seed spacing (15cm as set at seeding).

With the crop emerged, intra-row or between each cluster weeding could begin. Whereby a weeding arm, controlled by an electronic motor, was set at a clearance distance of 40mm around each plant/cluster to avoid disturbing the growing alliums.

Intra-row weeding provides the crop, in this case, the onions, with the best opportunity for growth, removing the element of competition against weeds for sunlight and nutrients.


18th May - 54 days after drilling

Despite only a few millimetres of rain since drilling, the onions showed good germination. Summer 2022 was extremely dry and challenging for all farmers but especially in the East of England.


7th July - Final inter-row weeding pass

Looking good and growing well the onion crop was well on its way and the FarmDroid had done its job! The onions had become too leafy for the FarmDroid to flow through without damage to the crop. 

Once the FarmDroid's job was complete the onions were irrigated.


12th August - Cluster of organic onions looking well

Considering the very dry conditions in the East of England in 2022, the farmer was happy with his first year using the FarmDroid. The crop performed well although, lack of moisture meant that not all of the clusters achieved the target of 3-4 onions.

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