Fox Robotics was awarded the Innovate UK Smart grant at the start of 2020 for its innovative project proposal of the ‘Fox Robotics Soft Fruit Logistics AMR Solution’, which will focus on improving the logistics solutions in Agriculture, focusing on soft fruits.

Fox Robotics was awarded just under £80,000 for this grant to develop further their platform robot- Hugo RT TM, an Autonomous Mobile Robot (AMR) specifically designed to autonomously carry out the transportation of the picked produce from the pickers in fruit fields, ensuring pickers focus on the highly dexterous task of picking on average 30 kg per hour of fruit.

Hugo RT TM works all year round by carrying any load during the off-season, which isn’t limited to seedlings and soil.

Our Founder, CEO & CTO, said, “We are delighted to have been awarded this grant, as it will allow us to develop our novel technology further and help reduce the strain farmers have been experiencing across the UK. We aim to create a suitable platform robot to support several areas and crops in agriculture for use across the UK and Europe.”

A mobile robot which promises to revolutionise the harvesting of fruit and other produce is being developed with the support of funding from New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership.

The Hugo RT TM will be capable of operating outdoors and negotiating rough terrain to support fruit pickers and farmers. Allowing harvesting to continue uninterrupted by journeys to and from the field.

Fox Robotics, based at Innovation Martlesham, near Ipswich, is behind the pioneering project which has been awarded a grant of £25,000 from the Eastern Agri-Tech Research, Development and Prototyping Fund.

Transporting fruit during harvesting is carried out manually and is time-consuming and labour-intensive. Loss of productivity can be as high as 15% to 20% and labour shortages in the sector will only increase the pressures being faced by businesses.

A prototype was developed by Fox Robotics in 2018 that could transport 200kg between destinations and agricultural businesses responded enthusiastically when it was showcased by the company. The Hugo 250 already supports logistics work in areas such as manufacturing, warehouses and 3PLs (third-party logistics).

Now the company, which started four years ago, is working on new robotics technology which can transport produce from a field or polytunnel and deliver empty collection trays without the picking being disrupted.

Alejandra Acevedo, Business Development manager for Fox Robotics, said the new robot was being designed to assist farming in the UK and anywhere else that face these challenges, in during the picking operations.“It will be able to automate one of the oldest industries in the world. Without high costs, and our technology has taken into account the challenges farms face and come up with a solution to improve sales and benefit employees,” she said.

Mike Burrows, New Anglia LEP’s representative on the Agri-Tech Programme Board, said: “Automated solutions have been aimed at picking, but the technology is slow and generally less efficient than teams of skilled pickers. This robotic device will instead address the time lost transporting the produce to the warehouse or distribution centre, addressing a clear gap in the market and driving up productivity.

“I am delighted that Fox Robotics will be using the grant to adapt its exiting model into a more specialist piece of machinery that has the potential to transform the harvesting of food, not just in the UK, but globally.”