Fruit-picking robot-maker Dogtooth harvests backing from prominent investors

A fruit-picking robotics business which has seen growing demand as a result of labour shortages in the agricultural sector will next week unveil a multimillion pound fundraising involving prominent venture capital investors.

Sky News understands that Dogtooth Technologies, which was founded in 2015 by Edward Herbert, Dr Duncan Robertson and Matthew Cook, has secured £7m in a Series A funding round led by 24Haymarket, a private investment network.

Octopus Ventures, LocalGlobe and a fund overseen by UKRI, the government research body, are also participating in the round.

The new funding will enable Dogtooth, which is based in Cambridgeshire, to accelerate the production and deployment of its “intelligent fruit-picking robots”, which perform the same functions as human fruit-pickers.

Image: Many seasonal workers have returned home to eastern Europe in the wake of Brexit – boosting demand for technology

Mr Herbert, Dogtooth chief operating officer: “Seasonal agricultural workers are fundamental to the operation of modern soft fruit farms and robotic automation won’t change this: however, we can’t recruit enough of them.


“Dogtooth’s aim is to make more effective use of the existing workforce by providing the tools required to allow farm workers to be more effective and productive.”

The company’s funding injection comes 18 months after the government launched a coronavirus-driven campaign, which it called “Pick for Britain”, to ensure that there were enough seasonal workers to harvest fruit and vegetable crops.

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Brexit-related and pandemic-induced disruptions to the supply of workers have, however, pushed the industry to consider automated alternatives, with companies such as Dogtooth seeing spikes in demand.

According to the company, its robots navigate along crop rows, identify, pick and then package ripe fruit.

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Dr Robertson added that recent progress in areas of technology such as machine learning had provided the platform for companies like Dogtooth to develop their operations.

“Growers don’t want expensive, one-off prototypes; they need robots capable of low-cost mass production – and Dogtooth’s continuing manufacturing efforts despite Covid-induced disruption to global supply chains show that we are in an exceptionally strong position here,” he said.

As part of the funding round, Zoe Morgan, a former Co-op Group marketing executive, is joining Dogtooth’s board.

Paul Tselentis, 24Haymarket’s chief executive, said: “Dogtooth’s exceptional engineering is taking agriculture technology to new heights, creating a genuinely practical and cost-effective solution for Britain’s growers.

“Machine learning is a fast-developing area, and we’re proud to be backing a team that is working at the cutting edge, with a solution that isn’t just an experiment, but has a practical use that could truly benefit the UK economy.”