A new supercomputer crop scouting system developed to scan veg such as broccoli and lettuce in the field has been awarded a £250,000 grant.

Shropshire-based business Earth Rover received the quarter-of-a-million sum from the Midlands Engine Investment Fund’s (MEIF), Proof of Concept & Early Stage Fund, which is managed by Mercia.

The tech firm is also backed by the European Space Agency after starting up in 2017. According to Shropshire Live the cash will go towards developing a “crop scouting” system to predict the size and timing and harvests early on, using cameras fitted to a tractor.

Data gathered by the camera will then be processed by an AI supercomputer in the tractor to quickly produce accurate estimates on the upcoming harvest.

The technology is currently being tested at leading organic vegetable producer Polybell Farm in Doncaster, with Earth Rover targeting growers in the UK and Spain, which has a year-round season.

David Whitewood, CEO of Earth Rover, said: “Technologies such as AI and robotics have revolutionised manufacturing in recent years, yet agriculture has suffered from a lack of investment and still relies on traditional techniques.

At a time when we face the challenge of feeding a growing population with limited land and labour supplies, it is time for agriculture to undergo the same transformation. At Earth Rover we aim to play a leading role in the digitisation of farming to make the industry more productive and sustainable.”

David Baker, investment manager at Mercia, added: “Vegetable growers routinely overplant crops due to the difficulty in predicting yields and the need to fulfil stringent contracts with supermarkets. This pushes up costs and means that much of the crop simply rots in the fields, creating additional carbon emissions.

We believe Earth Rover’s system could help increase crop yields by 5 per cent and reduce costs by a similar amount. This funding will help the company to prove its value and launch into the market.”