Portfolio company Fieldwork Robotics, is to develop a cauliflower harvesting robot in collaboration with the Bonduelle Group, one of the world’s leading vegetable producers.
It is the second application of Fieldwork’s flexible and patented agricultural robot technology to gain food industry backing. The Company has already made strong progress with a raspberry-harvesting robot in collaboration with Hall Hunter Partnership, one of the UK’s biggest soft fruit producers, and is now working with Bosch to optimise the software and design of the robotic arms.
Bonduelle operates in more than 100 countries and generated annual revenue of c.€2.8 billion for the year to 30 June 2020. The collaboration is initially expected to last for three years, at the end of which there is expected to be a prototype ready for commercial manufacture.
Fieldwork, a spin out from the University of Plymouth, will initially work on the detection and soft robotics technology with a view to creating an early-stage prototype during the second year of the collaboration. Bonduelle will provide access to fields and its expertise in vegetables and knowledge of different growing and harvesting conditions. Frontier IP holds a 26.7 per cent equity stake in the Company.
Significant progress has already been made on the cauliflower technology. Company co-founder Dr Martin Stoelen, lecturer in robotics at the University of Plymouth and Associate Professor at the Western Norway University of Applied Science, initially started developing a cauliflower harvesting robot system in a project funded by Agri-Tech Cornwall, an initiative part funded by the European Regional Development Fund with match-funding from Cornwall Council. He has also worked on a tomato harvesting project.
Fieldwork has raised £318,000 so far this year to accelerate development and scale up of the technology. It has also been supported by a £547,250 Innovate UK grant as part of a £671,484 project to develop a multi-armed robot prototype. Other partners in the project included the University of Plymouth and the National Physical Laboratory. Innovate UK recently provided further support through a £84,000 continuity grant.
Bonduelle has a strong commitment to sustainable and diversified agriculture in all of the territories where we operate globally. New technologies can play an important part in meeting that commitment, so we are delighted to be collaborating with Fieldwork Robotics and excited by the potential of its agricultural robots.