Hackathon on a mission to solve labour gap in Agri sector

14 October 2022

Two Robotics students operating a small robot with a laptop
Two robotics students laughing
Type: Text
Category: Innovation

We're holding an Agri-tech Robotics Hackathon from Friday 11 to Saturday 12 November in partnership with Varfell Farms to explore how robots can assist with crop harvesting. If you're a web developer, coder, programmer or AI and machine vision specialist then we need your help to develop a robot picker to fill the labour gap in the agriculture sector!

Vivienne Neale, MSc Entrepreneurship Lecturer, said: “Robots are coming! In fact, robots in agriculture are already here! They’re used to pick soft fruit, asparagus, and peppers but as yet they can't do it fast enough - that’s the biggest challenge right now and what our hackathon will investigate.

“Our aim is to design a robot to operate at the same cost picking parity as a worker. We believe with the right technology, creativity and industry know-how we could make this happen; this is what we are heading towards and it's very exciting.”

In collaboration with Penzance-based Varfell Farms, one of the UK’s largest agri-business firms which supplies plants, bulbs, blooms and shrubs to the likes of B&Q, M&S and Waitrose, the event will investigate automated flower picking.

Simon Gardner, Director at Varfell, said: “Varfell Farms Ltd use the latest automation technology such as optical grades, GPS, drones, satellite imagery, radar and lidar to drive efficiencies in across business.  Picking flowers is one area with very little automation so to be involved in a project driving innovation in this area is hugely exciting.”

Vivienne added: “We already have the basic robot model, but this hackathon is about breaking, reassembling, revising, and re-creating to make the ultimate iteration.

"We need coders, web developers, AI specialists and electronics professionals to help change the future of agriculture. It’s such an important Cornish industry and with so many threats in the world today we want to help create a positive change.”

The hackathon takes place from 5.30pm on Friday 11 November until 5.30pm on Saturday 12 November in the Launchpad studio on the Penryn Campus. If you’d like to join the team to help make a difference in the agri-tech space sign up for free via the Eventbrite page.

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