Agri-tech R&D firm secures funding to carry out 12-month project with apple grower that could cut crop wastage

Agri-tech business B-hive Innovations has joined forces with UK premier fresh fruit grower Adrian Scripps Ltd to attract Innovate UK research funding aimed at accelerating agricultural innovation.

Apples detected using HarvestEye

Apples detected using HarvestEye

The 12-month project will allow apple growers to obtain greater insights into the size, count and variability of their fresh produce at the point of harvest, allowing data-driven decision on crop usage, B-hive said in a press release.

The research project will enable a significant extension of the capabilities of B-hive’s flagship technology HarvestEye, which already provides crop-level sizing insights to potato and onion farmers.

The project is being co-led by head of machine learning at B-hive, Mercedes Torres Torres, and James Simpson, managing director at Adrian Scripps, with preliminary work under way to test a range of produce varieties.

Mercedes said: “At B-hive, our objective is simple – to empower growers with the tools they need to deliver long-term, sustainable growth by increasing marketable yields and reducing waste. This has been proven for a number of years now with potato growers, who trust our technologies to deliver better forecasting of their root crops.

“It is exciting to be expanding the technology to operate with other fresh produce. This doesn’t come without its challenges, and we’ll need to undertake some modification to both the hardware and software of the system to ensure it is accurately producing the results we require for the world of fresh produce.”

Simpson added: “We desperately need clear, consistent information on the size and count of our apple crop as early as possible after harvest to allow us to meet the demands of retailers, who typically use set product sizes. We’re thrilled to be able to help develop technology that will revolutionalise our industry and are privileged to have the backing of Innovate UK in this year-long venture.”

B-hive plans to implement apples size and counting into HarvestEye later in 2024’s harvest season, following the conclusion of the research programme, with testing underway since late 2023.

Andrew Gill, general manager at B-hive, said: “This research marks the next step in HarvestEye’s evolution, but also represents part of a strategic move for B-hive into new sectors of the agricultural industry. We’re excited about the future, as we begin to help even more fresh produce growers with their technological needs.”

HarvestEye is a patented technology that provides accurate insights on root crops during harvest, as the crop is lifted. Fitting onto existing harvesting and grading equipment, it gives valuable information to growers on the size and count of root crop, while also mapping variability, informing long-term sustainable planning.

The latest version, Harvest Eye 2.0, operating with potatoes and onions, was unveiled in 2023 with a new handheld version being launched recently at Fruit Logistica 2024. Subscription, rental and lease options are now available for packers, processors and seed growers.