A University of Plymouth spinout company has made significant strides in its work to develop a range of fruit harvesting robots to support the agriculture sector.
The raspberry picking robots developed by Fieldwork Robotics have now been deployed commercially in two locations in Portugal.
The robots – fitted with four picking arms – are successfully working autonomously, with its sensor technology and grippers having been completely redesigned to reduce slippage and cut the harvesting time.
As a result, the fruit being picked has passed all quality controls, with the company now working to further speed the picking process so that each robot can gather 2kg of fruit per hour.
It is also making progress in its efforts to drive down production costs, with changes in the materials used for the robots expected to cut costs by more than 20%.
Fieldwork Robotics was launched in 2016 to develop and commercialise the work of Dr Martin Stoelen, and the company is now based in Cambridge. Its aim has always been to create autonomous robots that can work alongside the human workforce and ensure any gaps in productivity are filled.
It has currently developed two systems – a vertical harvester that can be adjusted depending on the height of fruit plants, and a horizontal platform that can navigate in multiple farming environments and be deployed through rows of crops for picking without human supervision.
The advances in technology and commercial activity recently saw the company receive the New to Market Award in the UK-Portugal Department for International Trade Business Awards.