Sussex Life - - Rural Life -

The land­scape of our fruit farms could be about to change with the new ad­di­tion of ro­bot fruit-pick­ers.

Hall Hunter Part­ner­ship has teamed up with Field­work Robotics, an off­shoot of the Univer­sity of Ply­mouth led by Dr Martin Stoe­len, to de­velop an in­no­va­tive ma­chine that is ca­pa­ble of pick­ing a whole range of fruit with­out the need of hu­man help.

Hall Hunter Part­ner­ship is a ma­jor player in the fruit in­dus­try, grow­ing 14,000 tonnes of ber­ries each year and sup­ply­ing su­per­mar­ket chains such as Waitrose, Marks & Spencer, and Tesco. They will be tri­alling the ro­bot to pick their fruit in a range of en­vi­ron­ments in Sus­sex, in­clud­ing poly tun­nels and open fields.

David Green, the chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer at Hall Hunter Part­ner­ship, says: “This is an ex­cit­ing new de­vel­op­ment to pi­o­neer the har­vest­ing of rasp­ber­ries robot­i­cally at a com­mer­cial scale.”

How­ever, in or­der to ef­fec­tively pick the fruit the tech­nol­ogy must be highly com­plex. Robin Ed­wards, the re­gional di­rec­tor of CLA South East that rep­re­sents hun­dreds of farm­ers in Sus­sex, ex­plains: “It needs to be able to spot a berry, as­sess if it’s ripe, and pick it with­out dam­ag­ing the soft fruit.

“One of the chal­lenges will be work­ing at com­mer­cial speed, so it will be in­ter­est­ing to see how it de­vel­ops.” Watch this space…

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