Using UV-C light as an alternative to pesticides

TRIC Robotics hopes to impact strawberry cultivation in California and Delaware

At the University of Delaware, TRIC Robotics has developed robots that will bathe strawberry crops in UV-C light. This is an alternative to the use of pesticides. The company then tested the robots in the fields of Fifer Orchards in Kent County, as well as sites in Georgetown and Kernersville. Recently, the company received its biggest funding milestone yet: $965,000 from the National Science Foundation, which, combined with a $625,000 grant from the USDA, positions the startup for a promising 2023.

To really get TRIC off the ground, founder Adam Stager decided to make a major move to where 90% of the industry’s strawberries are grown: Central California. “We ended up taking two of the platforms that we had designed for the East Coast, and we just threw them on top of the SUV and came out to California,” Stager said. “That really helped us get through to the R&D phase, and we were getting really great results. It was a very visible difference in crop health.”

While California is very much where the strawberry farms are, Stager sees potential for bringing the tech back to Delaware: “A really exciting idea for me is bringing the strawberries back to Delaware,” he said. “Right now, there’s so much pest pressure, especially with mold and the wetness that we have on the East Coast. That makes it really difficult to grow strawberries.”

In the meantime, Stager and his growing team are focused on bringing the technology to market as a service business model.



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