Asparagus harvesting robot trialled in UK

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British agri-tech start-up Muddy Machines has successfully completed field trials of its prototype robotic harvester ‘Sprout’.

For the past year, Muddy Machines has been working with asparagus grower Cobrey Farms in Herefordshire to test and develop Sprout on the farm.

Using deep learning technology to detect and pick asparagus spears according to growers’ specifications, Sprout is also lightweight and fully electric. The manufacturer said this helps to avoid damaging soil compaction and enables a green, sustainable and resilient future for UK horticulture.

The robotic harvester is designed to be lightweight and fully electric to avoid damaging soil compaction

Farms like Cobrey require a high volume of seasonal workers for a variety of tasks, primarily for weeding and harvesting. Asparagus is one of the most labour-intensive crops as harvesting occurs daily throughout the 12-week season, according to the team.

Muddy Machines added other companies have largely ignored asparagus, because by itself it is a relatively small volume crop. However, it wanted to start with the crop most suited to robotic harvesting, before  developing harvesters for more challenging crops.

Founded in June 2020, the company aim to find a solution to assist growers with labour supply challenges, Muddy Machines is now seeking additional funding to bring an initial batch of robots to market in 2022.

The robotic start-up is backed by Britbots, Robotic Ventures and Entrepreneur First, as well as securing several Innovate UK grants and funding from accelerator programmes..

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