In an effort to address future labour shortages, the UK's largest soft fruit co-op has been given a budget of £2.5 million to create the 'world's first robotic farm'. The project is called ‘Robot Highways’ and it aims to ensure industry sustainability labour challenges, the need for global food production and reduce environmental impacts.
The project will perform the biggest known demonstration of robotics and autonomous technologies, which will be hosted at Clock House Farm in Kent.
Grower-owned co-operative Berry Gardens is part of the consortium responsible for delivering the project. The group also consists of Saga Robotics, a leader in robotics for the soft fruit sector, the University of Lincoln and the University of Reading, among others. They say the project is key to industry sustainability by reducing sector reliance on seasonal labour, estimating a 40% reduction in the labour required.
Defra farming minister Victoria Prentis welcomed the project, saying British farming 'had never before been at the centre of forward-looking innovations'. Farminguk.com quoted her as saying: "It is great to see investment in these outstanding ideas which will help us tackle the farming’s greatest challenges, from achieving net zero to investing in sustainable alternative protein for animal feed."