Village News

Christmas Lights

190619 | Plymouth robots field-tested in Cornwall could be future of farming

Plymouth robots field-tested in Cornwall could be future of farming

Dr Martin Stoelen, Lecturer in Robotics at the University of Plymouth, features in the 2019 State of the Relationship Report written by the National Centre for Universities and Business

Dr Martin Stoelen a robotics lecturer at Plymouth University field trialling a new brassica harvester robot on Riviera Produce fields overlooking Marazion and St Michael's MountDr Martin Stoelen a robotics lecturer at Plymouth University field trialling a new brassica harvester robot on Riviera Produce fields overlooking Marazion and St Michael's Mount (Image: University of Plymouth)
Fruit and veg harvesting robots from Plymouth that have been field-tested in Cornwall could be the future of farming, a new report suggests.

 

Pioneering robotics technology that could help fruit and vegetable growers worldwide has been featured in a national report celebrating outstanding collaborations between academia and business.

Dr Martin Stoelen, Lecturer in Robotics at the University of Plymouth, is currently developing a series of flexible robotic arms that could help transform the fruit growing industry.

Through a number of funding sources, he is initially working on pickers for raspberries, tomatoes and cauliflowers, in collaboration with SMEs in Cornwall and major national fruit growers.

Now his work features in the 2019 State of the Relationship Report – titled Changemakers: Building the future through partnership – produced by the National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB).

Robotics experts from the University of Plymouth test their harvester robot in a brassica field near St Michael's Mount
Robotics experts from the University of Plymouth test their harvester robot in a brassica field near St Michael's Mount (Image: University of Plymouth)

The annual report shows those making the difference through partnerships – using ideas to simplify the innovation ecosystem, undertaking knowledge exchange of unusual topics or bringing value to a particular place or sector.

In a dedicated case study about his work, selected to be featured within the report, Dr Stoelen says: “There are a lot of small producers in the UK and they shouldn’t be excluded from taking advantage of technology because it has the power to transform their lives, just as it can for larger producers. We’d like to prove that robotic technology that can work in rural environments is not only possible, but affordable, viable and can help increase productivity on farms.”

Dr Stoelen’s work builds on the success of his GummiArm technology, through which he developed a robotic arm that mimics the variable stiffness of the human arm.

Last year, he received funding from Agri-Tech Cornwall (a three-year, £9.6 million initiative part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, with match-funding from Cornwall Council) to work with a number of Cornish businesses and develop robot systems to harvest cauliflowers.

Robotic experts from the University of Plymouth test out a new harvester robot in a brassica field near Marazion
Robotic experts from the University of Plymouth test out a new harvester robot in a brassica field near Marazion (Image: University of Plymouth)

In April 2019, his spinout company Fieldwork Robotics was awarded £550,000 by the Innovate UK Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund to accelerate the development of its raspberry-harvesting robot system. It also signed a collaboration agreement with the Hall Hunter Partnership, a leading UK soft-fruit grower supplying Marks & Spencer, Tesco and Waitrose.

Dr Stoelen is also working on a tomato-picking project in partnership with Shanghai Jiao Tong University, which has received funding from the Agri-Tech in China: Newton Network+ (ATCNN) fund.

The project is also initiating the creation of a robotics cluster around the technology, with three student start-up companies building components for the GummiArm and developing robotic platforms that will enable the technology to be deployed for crop imaging and soil testing.

Chris Skidmore MP, Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, wrote the foreword for the report, in which he said: “Where the excellence of our research base and businesses coalesce, we see the greatest expression of what they are capable of together – and that, put simply, is setting the direction of our future economic ambitions.

"This State of the Relationship Report is more than a statistical barometer of the health of partnerships between industry and academia. Through its intellectual curiosity, it approaches many of the key issues at the heart of the Government’s aspirations for university-business collaboration.”

Book page

TitleCreated
220714 | NHS in worst state in 74 years thanks to Tory management, says former Lib Dem MP 3 weeks 2 days agoBook page
220719 | Woman's 'life saved' by driving to London instead of waiting hours in Cornwall ambulance 3 weeks 2 days agoBook page
220720 | Cornwall Lithium borehole drilling sites on Rodda's land, Scorrier 3 weeks 4 days agoBook page
220628 | Kate Winslet's former Cornwall life in the villages of Angarrack and Tintagel 6 weeks 3 days agoBook page
220627 | 40 new homes in village | Connor Downs | and north west of Angarrack Lane, Connor Downs 6 weeks 4 days agoBook page
PA22/05411 | Outline application for 40 units with associated open space. All matters reserved except access (resubmission of PA 6 weeks 6 days agoBook page
220627| The ICS will replace Kernow CCG from July 1 to provide a single NHS voice in Cornwall 6 weeks 6 days agoBook page
220623 | George Eustice and Derek Thomas would lose seats in Cornwall if election held now, YouGov poll suggests 7 weeks 1 day agoBook page
220609 Recent Lungworm case in Hayle | Lungworm increasing threat to Cats and Dogs 9 weeks 2 days agoBook page
220301 | UK overrules scientific advice lift ban on bee-harming pesticide, Eustice not "rule out completely risk to bees" 13 weeks 6 days agoBook page
220211 | Will banned bee-killing pesticides become the new norm? | Secretary of State ignoring expert advice 13 weeks 6 days agoBook page
220505 | Prices at 'value brand' Tory minister's family farm shop dwarf supermarket rates George Eustice is 'trustee of family' 13 weeks 6 days agoBook page