Advanced Fruit-Picking Robots by Dogtooth Technologies Attract £7M Investment Amid Labor Shortages in Agriculture

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Dogtooth Technologies, a pioneering fruit-picking robotics company, has successfully raised £7 million in a Series A funding round. The round was led by 24Haymarket and featured participation from prominent investors such as LocalGlobe, Octopus Ventures, and UKRI. The funding will be utilized to accelerate the production and deployment of Dogtooth’s intelligent fruit-picking robots. The company has experienced a surge in demand due to labor shortages plaguing the agricultural sector.

Brexit and pandemic-induced disruptions have compelled the agricultural industry to consider automated alternatives, like Dogtooth’s robots. These innovative machines can autonomously navigate along crop rows, accurately identify ripe fruit, pick, and package them. The company’s expansion comes 18 months after the UK government launched the “Pick for Britain” campaign, which aimed to ensure a sufficient number of seasonal workers for fruit and vegetable harvesting.

According to Dogtooth’s Chief Operating Officer, Edward Herbert, their primary goal is to enhance the efficiency and productivity of the existing workforce with the assistance of these robots. Recent breakthroughs in machine learning technology have enabled companies like Dogtooth to develop and refine their operations. As part of the funding round, former Co-op Group marketing executive Zoe Morgan will join Dogtooth’s board.

Dogtooth Technologies is currently focusing on perfecting their strawberry-picking robots, with plans to expand to raspberries and blackberries in the future. The company has been rigorously testing its robots with growers in the UK and Australia, allowing for a year-round picking season. This ongoing testing has been made possible due to the significant progress made in computer vision and machine learning research.

The company’s patent-pending approach to fruit picking, which involves snipping the stalk just above the leafy calyx, sets it apart from its competitors. This method aligns with UK supermarket preferences for selling strawberries with a small stalk attached.

Dogtooth’s intelligent robots offer several benefits over human pickers, such as the ability to inspect fruit during the picking process and performing this task at night, potentially increasing the shelf life of the picked fruit. Moreover, the robots can collect valuable data about crop yield and minimize the risk of cross-contamination.

The company is now preparing to manufacture 24 of its version 3.0 robots, meaning that in the near future, some strawberries bought by consumers may never have been touched by a human hand. Dogtooth is determined to address the practical deployment challenges, such as ensuring the robots are waterproof and able to withstand muddy, difficult terrain. The company’s holistic approach to overcoming these barriers, combined with its exceptional engineering team, is expected to position it at the forefront of the intelligent robotics market.

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