Today, Muddy Machines, a UK agtech startup, announced that they have successfully developed a prototype robotic harvester for green asparagus, which they’ve named “Sprout”. Working closely with Cobrey Farms, the largest asparagus grower in the UK, Muddy Machines company has spent the last year developing and testing their machine on-farm.
Farms require a high volume of seasonal workers for a variety of tasks, primarily for weeding and harvesting. Asparagus is one of the most labor intensive crops as the harvesting occurs daily throughout the 12 week season. Picking asparagus is among the hardest and most backache-causing activities in farming, make it also hard to find workers to do the harvesting. Although green asparagus is a relatively small volume crop, Muddy Machines believes that it is most suited for robotic harvesting and is an excellent starting point before developing harvesters for more challenging crops.
Intelligent harvesting robot
That Sprout is a smart robot shows from the moment it leaves the farmer’s shed. The robot finds its way to the asparagus fields fully autonomously. Once arrived at the harvest field, it uses the latest in deep learning technology to detect and delicately pick asparagus spears according to grower’s specifications. The robot only picks mature spears, works in weeds and can even detect and harvest spears that are crooked, curved or malformed. The robot is lightweight and fully electric, avoiding damaging soil compaction and enabling a green, sustainable and resilient future for agriculture. To top it all off, the robot doesn’t experience any back pains.
Seeking additional funding
Muddy Machines was founded by Florian Richter (left) and Christopher Chavasse (right) amidst the Covid-19 pandemic and the urgent request from growers to find a solution to their labor supply challenges. The company is backed by various venture funds, business angels and has won several Innovate UK grants. The startup is now seeking additional funding to bring an initial batch of robots to market in 2022.
Florian and Christopher currently take part in the fall 2021 edition of StartLife Accelerate. If you like to view Muddy Machines’ live pitch, you can register for StartLife’s (virtual) Graduation Day, on 9 December 2022.