Barley from Hands Free Hectare used to make gin in time for World Gin Day

Hands Free Hectare is the first project in the world to tend and harvest a crop with no human foot entering the field
Hands Free Hectare is the first project in the world to tend and harvest a crop with no human foot entering the field

Barley from the world's first hands-free crop has been used to make gin in time for World Gin Day this Saturday.

A 30-bottle batch of Merywen gin, flavoured with barley from the world’s first hands-free crop, has been produced by North Star Distillery, in North Wales, in conjunction with Harper Adams University.

Hands Free Hectare Gin is not for sale, but will instead be sampled by key sponsors and others involved in the Hands Free Hectare project, as a token of the university’s appreciation.

The Hands Free Hectare has attracted attention from across the globe since the project started in October 2016.



The project, run by Harper Adams University and Precision Decisions, aimed to be the first in the world to plant, tend and harvest a crop with no human foot entering the field.

The engineers developed equipment so that all work could be carried out by autonomous machines and drones.



They planted a crop of spring barley in March 2017 and successfully harvested it in early September, to achieve a world first, which could have huge ramifications for the way farming practices are developed in the future, in the UK and worldwide.

'Smooth, warm flavour'

The hands-free gin had its test outing at a function on June 2nd, attended by various members of the Hands Free Hectare team and sponsors.

Harper Adams University researcher Jonathan Gill, who led the gin-production project, added: “We have wanted to make beer since we successfully harvested the Spring Barley last autumn, but brewing takes time. The benefit of gin, in addition to its current soaring popularity, is that it can be flavoured over a much shorter time frame.

“North Star Distillery have done a fantastic job with the Hands Free Hectare Gin. The barley gives it a smooth, warm flavour which we think would be perfect served with apple or berries.”

Clive Blacker, of project partner Precision Decisions, said: “The smooth quality and robust taste made a fantastic finish for the project. It was wonderful surprise tasting thanks to Jonathan’s hard work. The only downside is the bottle needed to be bigger with the gin proving nearly as popular as the project!”