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London Tech Week

Fieldwork Robotics grasps £1.5M for Alpha, its AI-powered raspberry picking robot

Fieldwork Robotics funding
Picture credits: Fieldwork Robotics

Farms in Europe, and worldwide, are suffering from a continuous and worsening shortage of workers. In the UK, this problem has been exacerbated by Covid-19, Brexit, the war in Ukraine and high employment levels in competing sectors. As per the National Farmers’ Union, as much as £60 million of food will be left to rot on farms this year due to labour shortages. 

Especially, raspberry producers in particular face several systemic issues including chronic labour shortages and dwindling net margins. Picking raspberries alone accounts for over 50% of total production costs. Addressing this issue, Cambridge-based Fieldwork Robotics (focusing on soft fruits, such as raspberries) has developed advanced, AI supported harvesting robots to help solve the problem of worker shortages, increase farm efficiency and reduce food wastage in the UK and beyond. 

Ambitious plans for raspberry harvesting 

In a recent development. Fieldwork Robotics has picked up £1.5 million from Elbow Beach Capital (which recently backed EnsiliTech, Allye, and Anaphite) in an ongoing Seedrs round, which target to raise an over £2 million. Having opened to new investors, the company is expected to raise an additional £600K. The round saw investment from Frontier IP, a family office and other existing investors. 

Previously, Fieldwork Robotics has received over £700K from Innovate UK and support from EIT Food, giving the company access to a network of entrepreneurs, agricultural leaders and academics. 

The UK agritech company will use the proceeds of this round to grow its team, begin outsourcing the manufacture of its robots and onboard more farmers to its harvesting-as-a-service offering. The company aims to have over 100 robots available for harvesting-as-a-service by 2025 and treble the harvesting speed of its robots. 

In addition to the investment, the company recently recruited David Fulton as CEO who brings a wealth of knowledge in AI, technology development and marketing. 

Jon Pollock, CEO of Elbow Beach Capital stated: “The Fieldwork Robotics team combine their significant technical expertise with a drive to create an instant and lasting impact. Agriculture as it stands is not fit for purpose and we need innovative technologies to alleviate the unsustainable levels of waste and improve the economics for the farmer and end customers in the sector. We look forward to working closely with Fieldwork as they tackle this issue head on.” 

David Fulton, CEO of Fieldwork Robotics said: “Elbow Beach Capital are a great strategic and cultural fit for us. As a genuine impact investor, it’s clear that EBC are not only looking for potential value, but also at the impact of their investments and how they can make the world a better place. This round will support our work with forward-looking farms looking to solve their labour shortages, reduce crop wastage and mitigate food inflation.” 

AI-powered harvesting robot 

Fieldwork Robotics was founded in 2016 by Martin Stoelen in Cambrdige. Focusing on the harvesting of soft fruits using both vertical and horizontal robots, the company aims to solve the interrelated problems of worker shortages, farm inefficiency and food wastage.

Fieldwork’s proprietary AI technology combined with its unique modular soft robotic arms bring together cutting-edge hardware and software to offer highly advanced harvesting robots. 

Alpha: The raspberry harvesting robot! 

Spun out of the University of Plymouth, Fieldwork has developed the first autonomous raspberry harvesting robot, named Alpha in collaboration with Bosch. The robot analyses the crop, decides when to harvest the raspberries, and places them in punnets ready for delivery to supermarkets. 

Alpha gives growers the ability to extend operations to 24 hours a day, increasing harvesting time  threefold. With farmers struggling to recruit farm workers, Alpha can provide assurance that farmers’ capability to harvest will not be impacted by seasonal or policy-led variations in available labour supply. Fieldwork’s technology therefore allows growers to significantly increase their harvesting efficiency and reduce the food wastage caused by human labour shortages.

Working in collaboration with the Summer Berry Company, Fieldwork has deployed Alpha to farms in Portugal, and the fruit it harvests is currently being sold in the UK’s top supermarkets including M&S, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose.

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