University spinout secures equity funding to enhance development of robot fruit harvesters

University of Plymouth spinout company Fieldwork Robotics has raised almost £300,000 through an initial equity funding round.

The proceeds will be used by the company, created to commercialise the work of Lecturer in Robotics Dr Martin Stoelen, to accelerate development and scale-up of its novel robotics technology for harvesting soft fruit and vegetables.

A prototype raspberry picking robot successfully completed two field trials last year in collaboration with Hall Hunter Partnership, one of the UK’s leading soft fruit growers.

As part of the fundraising Frontier IP, the University’s commercialisation partner, converted a loan of £48,000 into equity, with £250,000 being raised from new investors. The funding round values the spinout at just over £5million.

Fieldwork Robotics is initially focused on developing robots to harvest raspberries – they are more delicate, more easily damaged than other soft fruits, and grow on bushes with complex foliage and berry distribution.

Together with the University, it is also developing proof-of-concept robots for other crops following interest from leading agribusinesses. 

The company’s work to date has been supported by a £547,250 Innovate UK grant, as part of a £671,484 project to develop the multi-armed robot prototype. Other partners in the project included the University of Plymouth and the National Physical Laboratory.

Dr Stoelen has also received £216,000 from Agri-Tech Cornwall – a three-year, £9.6 million initiative part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, with match-funding from Cornwall Council – for a project to develop robot systems to harvest cauliflowers.

He is also working on a tomato-picking project in partnership with Shanghai Jiao Tong University, which has received funding from the Agri-Tech in China: Newton Network+ (ATCNN) fund.

Robot fruit picking trials

Dr Martin Stoelen and his spinout company Fieldwork Robotics Ltd are working on a range of projects using robotic arms to pick fruit and vegetables

Watch this video of the raspberry picking robot in action