The University of Salford has announced the opening of the UK’s first centre for robotics in the food industry.

Based in Yorkshire, the £1 million centre will showcase a range of highly advanced robots capable of picking up slices of cucumbers and tomatoes without causing them any damage.

The centre will be fully operational by January next year and will employ full-time engineers to demonstrate technology to food manufacturers and engineering companies. By September 2007, it aims to send out an engineer to visit companies and show them the advantages of food automation.

According to the university, automating the food production process could give northern-English companies an advantage over their competitors in terms of cost, production time and efficiency.

The centre is funded by development agency, Yorkshire Forward and the University of Salford will operate it in conjunction with Leeds University.

Professor John Gray who heads the university’s robotics centre said: “The University of Salford is committed to real-world, practical work of this kind and has developed strong links with the food industry over the years.

“The ultimate aim of this project is to create a national centre to support all British food companies in making better use of automation.”