On 11-12 November 2022, Falmouth University’s Entrepreneurship and Games Academy students collaborated to develop a daffodil picking robot as part of an agri-tech hackathon.  

Penzance-based Varfell Farms is one of the UK’s largest agri-business firms, supplying plants, bulbs, blooms and shrubs to retail chains including B&Q, M&S and Waitrose. After working with staff and students from Falmouth University, the company decided to issue an urgent call for expertise to help develop a prototype robot picker.   

The agricultural sector already uses robotic technology to pick soft fruit, asparagus, and peppers, but Varfell issued the plea to tech talent across the UK with a particular focus on developing a quicker, more efficient method for crop harvesting.   

In partnership with Falmouth University’s business and robotics academics and our Venture Studio community, Varfell’s agri-tech hackathon explored a range of ideas relating to automated flower picking ahead of the firm’s 2023 daffodil harvest. 

A smaller team is now being put together to continue the development of the robot in collaboration with Varfell Farm.   

We need coders, web developers, AI specialists and electronics professionals to help change the future of agriculture. 

Simon Gardner, Director at Varfell Farms, said:   

“Varfell Farms Ltd use the latest automation technology such as optical grades, GPS, drones, satellite imagery, radar and lidar to drive efficiency in 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 Neale, MSc Entrepreneurship lecturer at Falmouth University, added:  

“As a sector, farming is increasingly using AI, green and automated technologies to make their businesses more sustainable. This hackathon was 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 challenges facing businesses at the moment, we’re thrilled to help create a positive change.”  

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