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British Bots Bloom! Robots to Pick Daffodils as Labour Shortages Bite

Lincolnshire's horticulture industry is blooming with innovation thanks to a hefty grant aimed at tackling persistent labour shortages. Gedney Dyke family firm C. Wright and Son, in collaboration with Cambridge-based Autopickr, has secured nearly £300,000 in national funding to develop a revolutionary robotic daffodil picker.

Since 2020, horticultural land in the UK has dwindled by a concerning 15%. This new robotic platform offers hope for revitalizing the industry, addressing both labor shortages and rising costs.  A successful project means lower costs for British flower growers and increased daffodil production – a profitable export market.

“Labour is getting hard to come by and any method of automating our harvest has to be the way forward. We have every faith in the project delivering automation to a much-needed harvest operation,” says Adam Cunnington of C. Wright and Son, who also grows asparagus.

The robotic solution is as ingenious as it is practical. A sophisticated robotic arm, a lightweight platform, and an artificial vision system work together to identify and harvest the blooms.  Growers themselves have long championed the need for robotic harvesting technology in the flower sector.

This daffodil-focused project follows the success of an automated asparagus harvester, slated for launch within three years. "We are very pleased to have received funding for this project,” Mr. Cunnington confirms.

Meanwhile, Eyre Trailers has also secured nearly £300,000 to create a fully automated blueberry harvesting machine. Blueberries command a hefty £337 million market in the UK, yet the industry only holds a 7% market share.  

This innovative machine, employing new berry-removal and bush-gripper systems, could be widely used by British growers by 2025.

"We're very privileged to have been offered the grant...and we're looking forward to bringing the project to fruition," says Bob Eyre of Eyre Trailers. Currently, blueberry harvesting is entirely dependent on expensive hand-picking. This automated solution promises to decrease labour costs significantly and boost the industry.

In total, twelve projects across Eastern England received grants, including initiatives supporting aphid defense, fiber-rich foods, crop breeding advancements, and sustainable plant-based packaging.

“We’re absolutely delighted that 12 projects have been successful...," says Effie Warwick-John, UK Food Valley Programme Manager at the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP). "The successful projects... align very well with the UK Food Valley’s...aims...supporting low-carbon food chains and promoting naturally healthy good-for-you foods.”

“We hope to encourage even more fantastic applications in the next round launching next week to showcase the Eastern England region’s brilliant agri-tech and food-tech innovation cluster.”


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