In a bid to transform the world of fruit cultivation, Lincolnshire-based startup FruitCast has successfully secured £2.8 million (approximately €3.26 million) in a recent funding round. The company specializes in yield forecasting services for soft-fruit growers, a sector of agriculture that has long struggled with precision and accuracy in predicting harvests. This fresh injection of funding is set to propel FruitCast’s technology into the market, offering a game-changing solution to the challenges fruit growers face.
FruitCast’s journey began in 2022 when it received an initial investment of £520,000 from Ceres Agritech, a pioneering agricultural technology company. This funding kickstarted the development of FruitCast’s innovative tool and allowed them to assemble a team of research scientists and industry specialists. Building on this foundation, the recent funding of over £1.1 million is poised to facilitate the official launch of FruitCast’s groundbreaking service.
The company’s proprietary technology has undergone rigorous testing on soft fruit farms across the UK over the past two years, with trials showing promising results. FruitCast is now on track to launch in 2024, bringing a new era of precision and efficiency to fruit cultivation.
The driving force behind FruitCast’s success lies in its state-of-the-art AI-enabled data analytics and yield forecasting technology. Traditionally, yield forecasting has relied on manual labor, where workers would count plants and make estimations based on those counts. This method, though practical, often led to inaccuracies and inefficiencies, resulting in lost sales and compromised profit margins.
FruitCast’s approach aims to revolutionize this process by utilizing AI and data analytics. Richard Williamson, CEO of FruitCast, emphasizes that the company’s AI capabilities are backed by one of the largest databases in the world. This immense data repository forms the foundation for accurate forecasting, giving FruitCast a competitive edge over other players in the market. Williamson further notes that FruitCast’s understanding of practical agriculture and proven capabilities have attracted significant attention from agritech investors.
The technology behind FruitCast involves using a moving camera that captures thousands of daily photos. These images are then analyzed to evaluate individual fruit count, weight, and maturity for millions of berries. Dr. Raymond Martin, Chief Technical Officer of FruitCast, developed the technology based on his relevant PhD research, which was driven by the practical needs of growers. Dr. Martin explains that the timing of fruit harvesting is crucial, as an excess or shortage of fruit can result in waste or lost business. FruitCast’s system empowers growers to make precise forecasts, allowing them to manage costs and customer contracts better.
Louise Sutherland of Ceres Agritech sees immense potential in FruitCast’s technology, noting that it can make transformational changes in the industry. The ability to predict the timing and yield of fruits accurately could be a game-changer for growers, contributing to increased annual margins. Sutherland expresses excitement that a technology backed by Ceres Agritech is entering the market, showcasing the company’s commitment to innovation and progress in agriculture.
In addition to Ceres Agritech’s support, FruitCast’s funding comes from private investors and Innovate UK’s investor partnership program. With this financial backing, FruitCast is poised to bring its innovative technology to fruition, offering growers a powerful tool to optimize their yield forecasting and overall crop management. As the platform gears up for its launch, growers can anticipate a new era of precision and efficiency in soft-fruit cultivation, with potential expansion into various other crops.
Image provided by Dianna McDougall