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August 20, 2020

UK fruit business Berry Gardens gets backing for robotic farm plan

UK fruit producer Berry Gardens is part of a consortium that has been funded to the tune of GBP2.5m (US$3.3m) to proceed with a futuristic farming plan.

By Leonie Barrie

UK fruit producer Berry Gardens is part of a consortium that has been funded to the tune of GBP2.5m (US$3.3m) to create what it describes as the “world’s first robotic farm”.

The money, from the Government’s enterprise body Innovate UK, will fund a project to demonstrate robotics and autonomous technologies at Clock House Farm in Kent, south of London.

Berry Gardens, which produces soft and stone fruits, said the trial will set out to deliver a “vision for the future of soft fruit growing, where robots will assist growers by carrying out essential, energy-intensive physical farm processes such as picking and packing fruit and treating crops to reduce critical pests and diseases”. 

The consortium also includes Saga Robotics, the University of Lincoln, the University of Reading, the Manufacturing Technology Centre, and communications firm BT.

Richard Harnden, director of research at Berry Gardens Growers, said: “We have been partnered with the University of Lincoln and Saga Robotics for the past six years and this project will demonstrate at scale our jointly developed new capabilities in robotics for the UK soft fruit industry.”   

The company said that the project – dubbed Robot Highways – will also provide solutions for moving the sector towards a carbon-zero future with an estimated 20% reduction in fruit waste, a 90% reduction in fungicide use and a “huge reduction” in the use of fossil fuel across all farm logistic operations.

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