Simon Blackmore, professor of engineering at Harper Adams University, said crop production has to become more flexible and efficient.
Professor Blackmore said large machinery was one of the major weaknesses in current production systems.
While large tractors have enabled work rates to increase through economies of scale, they use large amounts of energy, cause soil damage through compaction and don’t apply chemicals as precisely as they could.
What’s more, while they may have driven efficiencies, they have rarely increased yields – something smaller, more intelligent technology could do, Prof Blackmore said.
“We need to break out of thinking that bigger is always better. 90% of the energy going into cultivation is there to replace the damage cause by machinery,” he said.
“Small automated machines can work in small fields, so that means we have opportunities to increase production sustainably.”