Commercial strawberry-picking robot developers expect widespread adoption "within three years"

A Cambridge technology start-up is working with research body NIAB-EMR and soft fruit grower Hugh Lowe Farms to develop smart autonomous robots to harvest strawberries and other soft fruits.

Image: Dogtooth Technologies
Image: Dogtooth Technologies

Dogtooth Technologies has already developed a prototype picking robot that is showing encouraging results in early on-farm trials. It can accurately locate and distinguish fruits that are ripe and ready for picking, and to pick them fast and thoroughly enough to provide a commercially viable and sustainable model for growers, the company said.

"Dogtooth continues to work closely with reference customers to refine the product over the next 18-24 months, as we optimise the machine efficiency and further extract value through data analytics and machine learning," it added.

"Dogtooth expects to provide commercially effective picking capabilities to reference customers in 2018 and to achieve widespread adoption by 2020."

Dogtooth has been funded by Innovate UK and several Cambridge technology "angel investors" including Peter Cowley, named UK Business Angel of the Year for 2014/2015. The company is now raising new funding in order to complete commercial trials during the 2017 growing season.

NIAB-EMR has already secured funding of £120,000 for the project from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

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