LONDON: Frontier IP’s portfolio company Fieldwork Robotics has raised £298,000 through an initial equity funding round to accelerate development and scale up of the Company’s novel robotics technology for harvesting soft fruit and vegetables.
A prototype raspberry picking robot successfully completed two field trials last year in collaboration with Hall Hunter Partnership, one of the UK’s leading soft fruit growers.
As part of the fundraising, Frontier IP converted a loan of £48,000 into equity, with £250,000 being raised from new investors. The funding round values the University of Plymouth spin out at £5,048,000, with the Group’s 26.9 per cent equity stake valued at £1,355,000. Frontier IP also holds outstanding warrants on a further 0.74 per cent of Fieldwork’s equity. Before the funding round, the Group held an equity stake of 27.5 per cent, which was valued at £415,000.
The Company is initially focused on developing robots to harvest raspberries – they are more delicate, more easily damaged than other soft fruits, and grow on bushes with complex foliage and berry distribution. Fieldwork, together with the University of Plymouth, is also developing proof-of-concept robots for other crops following interest from leading agribusinesses.
Work to date has been supported by a £547,250 Innovate UK grant as part of a £671,484 project to develop the multi-armed robot prototype. Other partners in the project included the University of Plymouth and the National Physical Laboratory.
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 systems and a tomato picker, a project run in partnership with the Shanghai Jiao Tong University.
Frontier IP, Chief Executive Officer, Neil Crabb, said: “Fieldwork has made strong progress in the last year in developing a robot raspberry-harvesting system ready for commercial roll out. We are delighted with the support we have received from the new investors in the Company.”
Frontier IP Corporate Director, Rui Andres and Fieldwork Chief Executive Officer, said: “It’s a great pleasure to see the increasing pace of progress in the robot and the Company. Fieldwork aims to work with potential customers to bring automated harvesting to a market suffering human labour shortages.”