Autonomous Robots supporting Fruit Picking


It is estimated that the UK soft fruit sector employs over 35,000 fruit pickers each day. The roles are low skilled and the sector has a high reliance on EU migrants to fill these posts. The impact of Brexit, plus labour inflation through the national living wage legislation poses a serious and direct threat to the whole sector. The need to drive productivity in the sector is urgent. Of the picking costs we estimate that 30% are for the pickers to simply carry picked fruit from within a greenhouse to an on farm logistics hub. We aim to eliminate or dramatically reduce this cost by developing an autonomous robot which can find a picker and transport picked fruit and empty trays around a farm. The robot will be autonomous, have the capacity to map its environment and to find and safely interact with a picker. The key innovation will be the development of autonomous systems which can work safely and over long periods of time in a complex farm environment. The need to drive productivity in the agri-food sector is a global challenge. This project will directly stimulate new markets and supply chains in the production of advanced autonomous systems to support agricultural producers.


Funded by InnovateUK, under contract 103339.