Funding boost for AI-powered fruit farming drone system

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Agri-tech start-up Outfield has secured £750,000 to further develop its AI-powered drone system for fruit farmers.

The Cambridge-based company, which aims to help fruit growers produce more fruit, be more efficient and increase sustainability by using drone technology and AI, has successfully closed its first funding round.

Outfield provides an orchard management and yield estimation system for high value fruit crops like apples, pears and plums. The company’s system is already in use across three continents, with Outfield working with growers in the UK, Europe, South Africa, Chile and New Zealand.

According to the company, fruit growers are using its system to deploy inexpensive, off-the-shelf drones, which can quickly survey orchards and gather high resolution images.

Outfield then uses machine learning to analyse this imagery, providing detailed maps of tree condition and fruit loading to help growers visualise and track the parameters in their orchards, informing precision management to increase yields, and sales forecasts to prime the supply chain. This allows growers to produce more fruit to specification, reducing fruit loss in orchard which can run as high as 20%, whilst using fewer chemicals on the land and requiring less manual labour.

Turquoise, the UK merchant bank specialising in energy, environment and efficiency, has led the investment in Outfield, its 11th deal for the Low Carbon Innovation Fund 2 (LCIF2). This funding round also includes Cambridge Agritech, Deeptech Labs and Amadeus.

Axel de Mégille, director at Turquoise, said: “Outfield technology will enable growers to improve yields on their production as well as decrease CO2 emissions associated with the use of chemical fertilisers.  We were impressed by what the Outfield team has built so far and are proud to be part of the next step of their journey”.

LCIF2 is funded by European Regional Development Fund, with the UK ministry of housing, communities and local government as the managing authority.

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