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6 October, 2021 - 21:06 By Tony Quested

Cambridge startup raises £750k to revolutionise fruit farming

A Cambridge company that helps fruit growers boost their harvest, be more efficient and increase sustainability by using drone technology and artificial intelligence has closed its first funding round.

Outfield provides an orchard management and yield estimation system for high value fruit crops like apples, pears and plums which has generated sufficient traction that it’s already used on most continents. Outfield works with growers in the UK, Europe, South Africa, Chile and New Zealand.

Growers are using Outfield to deploy inexpensive, off-the-shelf drone systems, quickly surveying orchards and gathering high resolution images. Outfield then deploys machine learning to analyse this imagery, providing detailed maps of tree condition and fruit loading to help growers visualise and track the parameters in their orchards, informing precision management to increase yields, and sales forecasts to prime the supply chain.

This allows growers to produce more fruit to specification, reducing fruit loss in orchard which can run as high as 20 per cent, whilst using fewer chemicals on the land and requiring less manual labour.

Turquoise, the UK merchant bank specialising in energy, environment and efficiency, has led the investment in Outfield – its 11th deal for the Low Carbon Innovation Fund 2 (LCIF2). Cambridge Agritech, Deeptech Labs and Amadeus also invested.

Axel de Mégille, director at Turquoise, said: “Outfield technology will enable growers to improve yields on their production as well as decrease CO2 emissions associated with the use of chemical fertilisers.

“We were impressed by what the Outfield team has built so far and are proud to be part of the next step of their journey”. 

The cash is being used to expand Outfield’s global reach and extract even more insights from rich data their growers are gathering, allowing for further impacts in the sector.

Jim McDougall, co-founder of Outfield added: “This investment will enable us to develop the customer base as well as adding new functionalities to the platform.

“Now is the time for new precision technologies to revolutionise this sector, supporting global food security and managing the environmental impacts of fruit growing.”

• LCIF2 is funded by European Regional Development Fund, with the UK Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government as the Managing Authority.

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