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Agri-OpenCore starts the battle against labour shortages in harvesting

Wootzano is part of an innovation to deliver an accelerated programme of robotic packing and crop harvesting.

The project is called Agri-OpenCore and has been introduced to tackle the lack of labour in the UK horticulture industry. Non-availability of labour is threatening the reliable supply of food in the UK leading to large amounts of unnecessary waste. President of the National Farmers Union (NFU) Minette Batters has said that the sector was in an ‘absolute food waste crisis’.

Wootzano, a robotics company based in the North East of England is a partner in Agri-OpenCore alongside project lead APS Produce Ltd with Dogtooth Technologies Ltd, University of Lincoln, and Xihelm Ltd.

There is currently no robotic harvesting system that can match the speed of human picking. But in the post-harvest space, Wootzano has achieved human-cost parity for packing fresh produce and will provide significant insight into the Agri-OpenCore platform.

To deliver this, Agri-OpenCore will develop the world’s first open development platform for Agri-robotics, with an aim of helping the commercial development of robotic systems using tomatoes and strawberries as use cases.

Image: Dr Jesse Opoku, Raviteja Burugu, Joel Budu at Lincoln's Institute of Agri-Food Technology (LIAT) at the University of Lincoln.

Dr Atif Syed, CEO of Wootzano Ltd, said:

"The Wootzano team, together with growers, academia and the agri-robotics industry, is working on Agri-OpenCore, a project targeting an open development platform for robotic systems. The platform will facilitate standardised access to the core robotic software and hardware components enabling rapid adoption by the industry and academia. The Wootzano team will work on the end-user packing case for vine tomatoes using our commercial Avarai system as the base product.

"The Agri-OpenCore is unprecedented for bringing together strong robotics companies in the UK to create such a platform which will reduce the development time for future robotics businesses."

The three-year Agri-OpenCore project launches on 1 April 2023 and is part of DEFRA’s Farming Innovation Programme.

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