Industry News: New tech spin-outs could boost fruit and veg yields

29 Nov 2021

UK farmers may benefit from new tech spin-out companies whose products could increase yields and reduce food waste.

Robotic mushroom picking, strawberry yield forecasting and new bio-based materials to drive down the carbon footprint of car manufacturing are the focus of the first three companies to emerge from knowledge exchange projects funded by Ceres Agri-Tech – a partnership between five leading UK universities including the University of Reading, and three renowned agricultural research institutes.

Dr Anna Macready, Associate Professor of Consumer Behaviour and Marketing at the University of Reading said:

“The agriculture sector often embraces some of the most innovative tech developments that make a real difference to our day to day lives. These three projects that have become commercial companies are a testament to the power of knowledge exchange for the public good and could help farmers increase yields, reduce food waste and reuse agricultural waste to not only drive down the carbon footprint of car manufacturing but also improve vehicle safety.”

The first three Ceres spin-out companies are:

  • Agaricus Robotics, which is developing a robot that can harvest even the most challenging dense clusters of mushrooms.
  • FruitCast, which is developing an innovative yield forecasting system based on AI-enabled data analytics, focusing on strawberry yields.
  • Cellexcel, which has developed a novel industrial-scale patented process to make water-resistant materials from flax.

Led by Cambridge Enterprise, the commercialisation arm of the University of Cambridge, Ceres was launched in 2018 – funded by Research England – to commercialise innovative agri-tech based on university research. The other partners are the University of East Anglia, the University of Hertfordshire, the University of Lincoln and the University of Reading, as well as the NIAB (National Institute of Agricultural Botany), Rothamsted Research and the John Innes Centre.

Dr Louise Sutherland, Director of Ceres Agri-Tech said:

"The launch of our first three spin-out companies is evidence of the success of the Ceres collaboration and testament to the quality of agri-tech innovation in UK universities.

"Alongside our commercialisation work with other projects in our pipeline, we are now also embarking on the next phase of Ceres and exploring new funding opportunities to enable us to accelerate our supply of innovative solutions to address the agri-tech problems of today and tomorrow."

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