Fieldwork Robotics Ltd. (‘Fieldwork’), developers of selective, adaptive and modular harvesting robots has been awarded a £515k grant from the Department of Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) to accelerate its £1.1m BerryBot Project.
Fieldwork will lead the project working alongside Performance Projects Ltd., leaders in agricultural robotics manufacturing and the Hall Hunter Partnership, one of the UK’s largest berry growers. The project is focused on increasing the performance and robustness of Fieldwork Robotics’ raspberry harvesting robot, Alpha, which will allow Fieldwork to offer an operational and profitable robotics harvesting service to UK raspberry growers by 2025.
The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) estimates that up to £22m worth of UK fruit and vegetables are wasted annually and left to rot in fields as a direct result of farming labour shortages. Exacerbated by the ongoing war in Ukraine, Brexit and high employment levels in competing sectors, the agricultural labour crisis is worsening, and farmers are in need of cost-effective solutions to help boost harvesting yields and protect profits.
Fieldwork’s technology solves the problem of worker shortages, increases farm efficiency and reduces food waste in the UK. The company’s proprietary model, Alpha, developed in collaboration with Bosch, analyses the crop, decides when to harvest the raspberries and places them in punnets ready for delivery to supermarkets.
The BerryBot Project will further develop the robot’s hardware, software and control/vision to enable picking at an enhanced rate. These engineering advancements will allow Fieldwork to offer an operational and profitable robotics harvesting service for UK raspberry growers.
Throughout the project, the robotics technology will be tested regularly at HHP’s raspberry farms, enabling the team to make adjustments based on real-world usage helping to optimise the productivity of the robot. This collaboration will also allow the team to identify the optimum raspberry growing environment, further enhancing the benefit to farmers of Fieldwork’s technology.
This grant award follows a recent £3m+ funding round, which included a £1.5m investment from Elbow Beach Capital and a £1.5m+ Seedrs crowd fundraise.