Scientists at the University of Plymouth have invented a fruit-picking robot

A robot which can harvest fruit has completed its first testing phase.

The prototype system, developed by Fieldwork Robotics from the work of Plymouth University robotics lecturer Dr Martin Stoelen, was tested at a farm in West Sussex which supplies major supermarkets.

Data from the trials will be used to refine and improve the system before further trials are held later this year.

If they are successful, manufacturing of a commercial product is expected to begin in 2020.

Once the technology has been successfully field tested it can be adapted for other fruit and vegetables. Credit: University of Plymouth
There are also plans for robots which can pick larger vegetables. Credit: University of Plymouth

The university says once the system is proved to work with raspberries, it can be adapted for other soft fruits and vegetables, with the same researchers also developing proof-of-concept robots for other crops following interest from leading agribusinesses.

Earlier this year, Fieldwork, along with University of Plymouth and the National Physical Laboratory, was awarded a £547,250 to develop a multi-armed robot prototype.

Dr Stoelen is also leading a project to develop robot systems to harvest cauliflowers, supported by Agri-Tech Cornwall, an initiative part funded by the European Regional Development Fund with match-funding from Cornwall Council.

He is also working on a tomato-picking project in partnership with Shanghai Jiao Tong University.