An unmanned robotic tractor offered a glimpse into farming's autonomous future when it was demonstrated cultivating a Norfolk field.

The AgXeed AgBot was one of the new technologies on show at the Norfolk Farm Machinery Club (Normac) cultivations event at Silfield Farm near Wymondham.

The eight-tonne, 155hp machine is powered through a diesel-electric transmission, and is fitted with standard three-point linkages to carry out the same cultivation and seed-planting operations as conventional tractors.

But it is much lighter on the ground, causing less soil compaction, and is able to safely work for 24 hours a day without the need for a driver.

Wymondham & Attleborough Mercury: The AgXeed AgBot robotic tractor was demonstrated at the Normac cultivations event near WymondhamThe AgXeed AgBot robotic tractor was demonstrated at the Normac cultivations event near Wymondham (Image: Sonya Duncan)

William Mumford is managing director of ASC Autonomy in Kimbolton, Cambridgeshire - the UK importer for Dutch manufacturer AgXeed.

He said robotic innovation represented the inevitable next phase in the evolution of agriculture, from horse-drawn implements to post-war mechanisation, through to modern satellite-guided precision agriculture.

"With the labour shortage and all the other problems that agriculture has got, this is the future," he said.

"The Normac show was set up after the war, so in that time we've gone from the major use of horse on the farm to the use of tractors and the internal combustion engine, and then we've seen another step change with auto-steer technology coming onto the farm.

"Now we are seeing another change with fully autonomous vehicles.

"For all intents and purposes it is a conventional tractor.

"It has all the hydraulic services and all the connections you would expect on a standard agricultural tractor. Anything that you can imagine a conventional tractor can do, this in theory can do it."

The firm has already sold four of the machines this year, but is awaiting its first order to set its first robot to work in East Anglia.

However, there was "quite a bit of interest" from Norfolk farmers at the Normac event, where it was shown automatically carrying out cultivation tasks following a pre-mapped pattern, and being operated with a remote control.