University of Lincoln to develop robotic harvesting machine for broccoli
The funding is shared by more than 70 UK businesses and universities as part of the UK Industrial Strategy for Agricultural Technologies to bridge the gap between lab research and the marketplace and to improve the development of agricultural technology in the UK.
Funded by BBSRC and Innovate UK
The project, which is jointly funded by BBSRC and Innovate UK, will test whether 3D camera technology can be used to identify and select when broccoli is ready for harvesting.
Tom Duckett, group co-ordinator, Agri-Food Technology Research Group, University of Lincoln, said the long-term impact of its research includes safer food, less waste, more efficient food production and better use of natural resources.
“Broccoli is one of the world's largest vegetable crops and is almost entirely manually harvested, which is costly,” he said.
“This technology is an important move towards developing fully automatic robot harvesting systems, which could then be used for a variety of different crops.”
The research team comprises academics Professor Duckett and Dr Grzegorz Cielniak from Lincoln’s School of Computer Science and Dr Simon Pearson, the University’s National Centre for Food Manufacturing (NCFM) at Holbeach.
R. Fountain & Son responsible for creating the broccoli-cutting device
The main industry partner is R. Fountain & Son, horticultural consultants based in Boston, Lincolnshire, who will be responsible for creating the broccoli-cutting device.
Another project by the University of Lincoln is the early detection and biocontrol of prevalent diseases of mushrooms and potatoes.
Funded by Innovate UK, the project addresses challenges with the identification, prevention and management of disease by developing diagnostic tools for farm use and alternatives to chemical pesticides.
“Food loss from farm to fork, due to disease and spoilage, causes considerable environmental and economic effects,” said Dr Bukola Daramola, principal investigator, the University’s NCFM.
“The outputs of this project have the potential to address the challenges presented to the mushroom and potato sectors by pathogenic bacteria and fungi, their detection and resistance to treatment.
“At the heart of the project is a drive to develop technology for bio-monitoring and bio-control, leading to scientific advancement.”
The project is in partnership with Monaghan Mushrooms, Queen’s University Belfast, AHDB Potato Council, RoboScientific and Rationale Biopesticide Strategists.