Bosch has entered into an agreement to work with the agritech company Fieldwork Robotics to accelerate the development of its novel robot technology to harvest soft fruit and vegetables.
Bosch UK will collaborate with Fieldwork's engineers to optimise the Company's soft robotic arms and develop software aimed at reducing the arms' cost and increasing their speed.
The agreement is a significant step forward in the commercialisation of the technology.
Fieldwork is initially focused on developing robots to harvest raspberries - they are more delicate, more easily damaged than other soft fruits, and grow on bushes with complex foliage and berry distribution. Fieldwork, together with the University of Plymouth, is also developing proof-of-concept robots for other crops following interest from leading multinational agribusinesses.
Fieldwork was incorporated to develop and commercialise the work of Dr Martin Stoelen, who splits his work between the University of Plymouth, where he lectures in robotics and leads the Soft and Adaptive Robotics lab, and as an Associate Professor at the Western Norway University of Applied Sciences.
Dr Stoelen has also led projects to develop a cauliflower harvesting robot systems and a tomato picker, a project run in partnership with the Shanghai Jiao Tong University.
Jenny Patten, Head of Business Development for Bosch UK, said: "To accelerate the development of technology that has the potential to improve people's quality of life and work, it is incredibly important that organisations - big and small - collaborate, making the best use of skills, knowledge and resources. To this end Bosch UK are very pleased to expand our relationship with Frontier IP and support Fieldwork Robotics in the development of their robotic arm for harvesting soft fruit and vegetables."
Vivek Kadal, Head of the Bosch Team working on the development for Fieldwork, said: "It gives Bosch great pleasure to work with companies that pioneer and change the way robotics are being used to simplify human working and this partnership adds to our "invented for Life" objective. Bosch will provide best in class capabilities to enable Fieldwork to commercialise and bring its robots to market."
Rui Andres, Fieldwork Robotics Chief Executive Officer, said: "This agreement is the result of several discussions between all the parties and the increasing interest in robotics within Bosch's agribusiness. We are looking forward to working alongside Bosch to further increase the pace of development and preparing the future path of our robots".
Neil Crabb, Frontier IP Chief Executive Officer, said: " Industry engagement is a vital part of validating the commercial viability of new technology, so we are delighted to be extending our relationship with Bosch UK. They have provided invaluable support for our work with Pulsiv in optimising its solar microinverter for manufacturability.
"Agricultural automation is a long-term trend, but one which has been thrown into sharp relief recently from the impact on human labour of COVID-19, demonstrating the potential value of Fieldwork's technology. We are very much looking forward to working with Bosch UK on this project."