Innovate UK extends backing for Fieldwork Robotics


Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency, has awarded portfolio company Fieldwork Robotics (“Fieldwork” or the “Company”) an £84,000 continuity grant to accelerate development of its innovative agricultural robot technology during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The grant will be used to support the Company’s plans to expand its team and develop facilities amid growing interest in its technology from potential industry partners.  Frontier IP holds a 26.9 per cent equity stake in the Company.

Fieldwork is currently focused on developing technology to harvest soft fruit and vegetables to help growers worldwide address the widespread issues around human labour shortages. These have been exacerbated by COVID-19 and its impact on people movement internationally and the introduction of social distancing requirements.

The Company, a University of Plymouth spin out, announced it had won a £547,250  Innovate UK Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund grant in April 2019 to accelerate development of its technology, part of a £671,484 project whose other partners included the University of Plymouth and the National Physical Laboratory. The Company has since enjoyed strong progress. It has:

  • completed field trials with some of the largest soft fruit growers in the UK
  • raised £320,000 through an initial equity fund raise in January 2020
  • announced a collaboration with Robert Bosch Limited in July 2020 to optimise the robot’s arms and software development to reduce cost and increase speed as part of a drive towards full-scale commercial production.

Fieldwork has also progressed in developing further applications of the technology to harvest other fruit and vegetables in addition to raspberries.

Fieldwork was incorporated to develop and commercialise the work of Dr Martin Stoelen, who splits his work between the University of Plymouth, where he lectures in robotics and leads the Soft and Adaptive Robotics lab, and as an Associate Professor at the Western Norway University of Applied Sciences.

Dr Stoelen has also led projects to develop a cauliflower harvesting robot system and a tomato gripper. 

Fieldwork Robotics is addressing the long-standing problems soft-fruit and vegetable growers have faced in recruiting enough human labour to harvest their crops. COVID-19 has only made these problems worse. We are very grateful to Innovate UK and the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund for their continued support.

Rui Andres, Chief Executive Officer, Fieldwork Robotics

We would like to thank Innovate UK for its ongoing support for Fieldwork Robotics. We are seeing significant industrial interest in the Company’s technology above the recently announced agreement with Bosch. We remain confident about Fieldwork’s long-term prospects

Neil Crabb, Chief Executive Officer, Frontier IP Group