A CUTTING-edge fruit picker is to be field-tested at a farm in Wokingham.

Heathlands Farm, in Honey Hill, will be one of the sites to test new high-tech harvesting robots in partnership with the University of Portsmouth spinout Fieldwork Robotics, which creates machines capable of picking a range of fruit and vegetables.

The farm is one of several sites across Berkshire, Surrey and West Sussex run by Hall Hunter Partnership, which grows 14,000 tonnes of raspberries, strawberries, blackberries and blueberries for customers including Waitrose, Marks & Spencer and Tesco.

The collaboration, led by lecturer in robotics Dr Martin Stoelen, will enable the technology to be field tested in a range of environments, such as fields and polytunnels, under different climatic and light conditions. Field tests could start later this year.

Hall Hunter Partnership chief operating officer David Green said: “HHP has always led the soft fruit industry in pushing forward productivity and quality standards on our farms and nurseries.

“This partnership with Fieldwork Robotics is an exciting new development to pioneer the harvesting of raspberries robotically at a commercial scale, we are looking forward to our first human-free hectare to be picked together.”