Company is making major strides in its work to develop robotic raspberry harvesters

Fieldwork Robotics has been awarded a £600,000 government grant by Defra and Innovate UK to further develop its technology.

Fieldwork Robotics is focusing on robotic picking solutions for raspberries

Fieldwork Robotics is focusing on robotic picking solutions for raspberries

The company, which develops selective, adaptive and modular harvesting robots, is putting the money towards a BerryAI Project, which will support the development of Fieldwork’s technology, bringing AI-powered vision and advanced decision-making technology to its robots.

Berry AI

The BerryAI Project will underpin the development of Fieldwork’s next autonomous model and has two aims: to enhance the AI-powered vision of the robot, and to improve its decision-making capabilities.

The updated robotic system will have enhanced artificial intelligence capabilities, meaning that the model will have the capacity to work in a fleet with one operator running multiple robots across the field. This significantly reduces the labour intensity of the harvesting process and improves harvesting efficiency, the company stressed.

Fieldwork explained that until now, the cameras on its robots have mostly utilised the human visual spectrum, mimicking the ability of a human harvester. This project, however, will incorporate technology that utilises wavelengths invisible to the human eye, facilitated by Fieldwork’s partner Fotenix, which develops crop analytic software.

This development will improve the robot’s ability to detect crop and determine ripeness, the company said. Development of these two functions will make the robot more autonomous and more efficient as an alternative to human harvesting.

In addition to improving the super-human vision of the robot, the BerryAI Project is also targeting decision making within the robots in order to improve their autonomy. The expectation is that improved AI decision making will allow the robots to operate for long periods of time with minimal human oversight, making them increasingly cost-effective and efficient.

Martin Stoelen, Fieldwork Robotics’ founder and chief science officer, said: “Harnessing the robot’s capacity for autonomy is key to scaling up Fieldwork’s offering. The combination of these two key steps in software development – super-human vision and improved autonomous decision-making – will make Fieldwork’s technology an even more commercially viable option for growers internationally, securing them against the ongoing challenges of a diminishing and inconsistent seasonal workforce.

“We are currently on track to complete field trials within the next quarter and we are excited to see the real-world applications of our technology continue to develop.”

New CFO for Fieldwork

In a further announcement, Fieldwork said Christopher Levine is joining the team as chief financial officer, having previously worked as finance director at management consultancy Global Counsel, part of WPP Group.

Levine has worked with a number of private equity-backed technology start-ups, advising them on revenue generation and scale-up of operations. He most recently advised a smart tech startup on its global scale-up strategy and successful rollout of operations across Europe, the US and Canada, exiting when the business reached revenues of around £10m.

David Fulton, Fieldwork’s chief executive, said: “This is an exciting time for Fieldwork. I am delighted to welcome Christopher to the team, who brings exceptional knowledge and experience to support Fieldwork as we further scale our business. Fieldwork is the only company in the world with the technology to autonomously harvest raspberries, and this funding round will allow us to build upon our first-mover advantage in the $2.2bn fresh raspberry industry.

“This is the second government grant that we have won in the last six months and is testament to the hard work of our team and the real-world impact of our technology. Fieldwork is a trusted partner, with growing name recognition and our dedication to continually improving our technology, while simultaneously evolving our team, will ensure that we are well positioned to continue innovating to service the fresh raspberry industry.”

Levine added: “I am pleased to have joined the Fieldwork team. The company is operating at the forefront of a rapidly growing sector, agri-tech robotics, and I’m excited to work with David and the team to further develop the company.”