FruitCast, which launches in spring 2024, uses imagery and data to forecast growth in strawberry plants

FruitCast's chief technical officer, Dr Raymond Martin, at the summit and with business secretary Kemi Badenoch

FruitCast’s chief technical officer, Dr Raymond Martin, at the summit with business secretary Kemi Badenoch

The start-up behind a new AI-based forecasting tool for soft fruit was one of just 13 UK businesses selected to showcase innovation and investment opportunity to leading international financiers at a recent summit hosted by the government.

FruitCast, which will launch fully to market in the spring of 2024, uses imagery and data to forecast growth in strawberry plants.

The agri-tech start-up was invited alongside Aston Martin, McLaren Group and Oxford Quantum Circuits to the second Global Investment Summit at Hampton Court Palace.

The event, hosted by Rishi Sunak and business secretary Kemi Badenoch, was attended by over 200 global investors.

The summit’s aim was to show the world’s leading CEOs – including those from Goldman Sachs, Aviva and JP Morgan Chase – that the UK is one of the best places to do business, in order to drive new and strategic investment into the British economy.

FruitCast, representing the agri-tech sector, featured alongside 12 other pioneering businesses – from life sciences, fashion and advanced manufacturing.

Chief technical officer at FruitCast, Dr Raymond Martin, said: “We were hugely privileged to be in the line-up alongside some of the UK’s most progressive businesses.

“Our mission at FruitCast is to drive human progress by revolutionising agricultural practices through AI and data analytics to drive sustainable, efficient agricultural practices.

“It gave us an excellent platform to showcase FruitCast’s potential to help the soft fruit industry, and in time other crops, to stay competitive and to be in greater control of market fulfilment and profitability, which echoes the UK’s wider commitment to innovation and progress.”

FruitCast has been developed by Raymond, initially as part of his PHD. The technology has received a £2.8m investment for further innovation and to build a full team to take the technology to market in early 2024. Richard Williamson, formerly of Velcourt and Dyson Farming, is among those on board.

Over the last two years, FruitCast has been trialled and developed with two leading UK strawberry growers to help them more precisely forecast fruit growth. This helps producers to plan labour and market supply and, ultimately, to protect their margins.

FruitCast uses digital imagery of the crop as it develops and can predict growth up to six weeks in advance. Meanwhile, AI driven by one of the largest databases in the world, allows for accurate forecasting ahead of other competitors.

Dan Yordanov, production manager at fruit grower and processor, Place UK, sung the technology’s praises. He said: “Planning labour needs and availability for our customers is wholly dependent on accurate estimation. There’s a lot of calculation in forecasting, it takes a lot of time, a large amount of input from experienced staff and is currently subject to human error. This is a real challenge for the industry.

“I’m excited to see FruitCast come to market. It is more advanced than others we’ve seen, but it’s also based on a valuable combination of agricultural knowledge and technology. There’s plenty of very advanced AI out there, but the team at FruitCast understand what we need it to do rather than what it can do.”

The £2.8m investment in FruitCast that has facilitated its upcoming launch has been raised from Ceres Agritech and Innovate UK as well as private investors.