The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has highlighted a pressing issue: annually, the UK witnesses up to £22 million worth of fruit and vegetables, including raspberries, being wasted due to labour shortages.
This loss not only impacts farmers’ profits but also contributes to significant food wastage.
Fieldwork Robotics’ Solution
To combat these challenges, Fieldwork Robotics has developed Alpha, an advanced, AI-supported harvesting robot. This technology promises to enhance farm efficiency and reduce food wastage, not just in the UK but globally.
The BerryBot Project, spearheaded by Fieldwork Robotics, has recently received a £515K grant from the Department of Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), boosting the project’s total funding to £1.1 million.
Collaborative Efforts for Innovation
The BerryBot Project is a collaborative effort involving Performance Projects Ltd, a leader in agricultural robotics manufacturing, and the Hall Hunter Partnership (HHP), one of the UK’s largest berry growers.
This partnership aims to refine the robot’s hardware, software, and control/vision systems, enhancing its picking rate and overall performance.
Alpha: A Game-Changer in Harvesting
Founded in 2016 by Martin Stoelen, Fieldwork Robotics has developed Alpha in collaboration with Bosch.
This autonomous raspberry harvesting robot is capable of analyzing crops, determining the optimal harvest time, and packaging the raspberries for supermarket delivery.
Alpha’s introduction into the market could triple the harvesting time, operating 24 hours a day and mitigating the impact of labour shortages on farming operations.
The Future of Farming
With regular testing at HHP’s raspberry farms, Alpha’s technology is being fine-tuned for real-world application. This not only optimizes the robot’s productivity but also aids in identifying the ideal raspberry growing conditions.
By 2025, Fieldwork Robotics aims to provide an operational and profitable robotics harvesting service to UK raspberry growers, marking a significant leap in agricultural technology.
This development represents a major step forward in addressing the systemic issues faced by raspberry producers and the broader agricultural sector.
With AI-powered solutions like Alpha, the future of farming looks more efficient, sustainable, and resilient against labour shortages and other challenges.