The UK asparagus industry is threatened by a shortage of pickers. Tech start-up Muddy Machines has developed an automated harvesting platform capable of distinguishing between spears that are ready to be harvested and those that are not, even under challenging field conditions. It can also predict yields, thereby increasing the profitability of the grower.
Florian Richter, Founder and CEO of Muddy Machines, presented in the Start-Up Showcase at Agri-TechE’s REAP conference. He has been working closely with John Chinn of Cobrey Farms, producers of over half of asparagus grown in the UK.
Richter: “Asparagus spears can grow 16cm in a single day with plenty of sun – that means you have to walk the field every day, with a team of pickers behind the tractor, for the whole three-month harvesting season. Timing is important.”
“Our robot is able to identify and distinguish asparagus spears from weeds, as well as identifying individual spears close to one another, grabbing and cutting the spear with a robotic arm. The next step is to improve the pick speed and the effective up-time in the field.”