Agri-tech start up in elite showcase of UK’s most innovative businesses for global investment

12 Dec 2023

The start up behind a new AI-based forecasting tool for the soft fruit industry was one of just 13 businesses selected from across the UK to showcase innovation and investment opportunity to the world’s leading financiers.

FruitCast, which uses imagery and data to forecast growth in strawberry plants, was invited alongside Aston Martin, McLaren Group and Oxford Quantum Circuits to the second Global Investment Summit, hosted by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Secretary of State for the Department for Business and Trade, Kemi Badenoch and attended by over 200 global investors.

The aim of the summit, held at Hampton Court Palace, was to illustrate to the world’s leading CEOs, including those from Goldman Sachs, Aviva and JP Morgan Chase, that the UK is one of the best places to do business in order to drive new and strategic investment into the UK economy.

As well as FruitCast representing agri-tech, the 13 pioneering businesses at the event included those from life sciences, fashion and advanced manufacturing.

Chief Technical Officer at FruitCast, which will launch fully to market in the Spring of 2024, Dr Raymond Martin, said:

“We were hugely privileged to be in the line up alongside some of the UK’s most progressive businesses. Our mission at FruitCast is to drive human progress by revolutionising agricultural practices through AI and data analytics to drive sustainable, efficient agricultural practices. It gave us an excellent platform to showcase FruitCast’s potential to help the soft fruit industry, and in time other crops, to stay competitive and to be in greater control of market fulfilment and profitability, which echoes the UK’s wider commitment to innovation and progress. Being invited to illustrate the potential for foreign investment was both great validation and motivation to continue the work we’ve been doing over the last four years, and that of others in our sector.”

FruitCast has been developed by Raymond, initially as part of his PHD. Since, soft fruit growers he’d been working with asked him to keep developing the technology, and it has received a £2.8m investment for further innovation and to create a full team, including Richard Williamson, formerly of Velcourt and Dyson Farming, to take the technology to market in early 2024.

Over the last two years, FruitCast has been trialled and evolved with two leading UK growers to help them to more precisely forecast fruit growth development. This helps them to plan labour and market supply and, ultimately, protect margins.

FruitCast uses digital imagery of the crop as it grows and AI driven by one of the largest databases in the world, which allows for accurate forecasting ahead of other competitors. Predicting growth up to six weeks in advance, it has been praised for having the agricultural understanding underpinning the technological implementation. The new website has been launched this month ahead of the product launch in the spring.

With ever increasing labour, weather and financial pressures on the soft fruit industry, Dan Yordanov, Production Manager at fruit grower and processor, Place UK, says:

“Planning labour needs and availability for our customers is wholly dependent on accurate estimation. There’s a lot of calculation in forecasting, it takes a lot of time, a large amount of input from experienced staff and is currently subject to human error. This is a real challenge for the industry. I’m excited to see FruitCast come to market. It is more advanced than others we’ve seen, but it’s also based on a valuable combination of agricultural knowledge and technology. There’s plenty of very advanced AI out there, but the team at FruitCast understand what we need it to do rather than what it can do.”

The £2.8m investment in FruitCast that has driven its launch in 2024 has been raised from Ceres Agritech and Innovate UK as well as private investors.