We’re Xihelm. We’re busy developing the first viable automated handwork robot for glasshouse fruit and vegetables.
We have an ambition: to eliminate laborious handwork from greenhouses by 2028, helping an industry worth £98 million a year meet its production demands while simultaneously upskilling its workforce.
Here’s our story.
Established in 2016 by CEO James Kent and co-founder Angel Bueno Rodriguez through the Entrepreneur First initiative, Xihelm originally developed AI solutions to identify the locations of utility assets in urban locations, using Google Street View.
The concept worked: Xihelm’s AI demonstrated its capabilities and was a huge success. But the one-off nature of maps meant the market was limited. So, could opportunity lie in another sector?
Pivoting quickly to agritech in early 2018, Xihelm won funding from Innovate UK. What followed – a partnership with the University of Lincoln (the world’s first global centre of excellence in agricultural robotics) and glasshouse project facilities at the renowned Stockbridge Technology Centre – proved to be just the beginning of the R&D programme that has seen Xihelm become the first UK company to commercially harvest fruit and vegetables autonomously using robot arms.
During its three-year development, and steady recruitment of a team with the perfect mix of skills and resources, Xihelm’s autonomous glasshouse harvesting technology has seen breakthrough after breakthrough. The company has evolved its fruit and vegetable harvesting robots into sensitive, fast, careful and reliable machines that operate intelligently, providing a technological solution that does far more than just extend the season for indoor glasshouse crop production.
Xihelm’s robotic harvesting technology, powered by its proprietary 3D AI engine, provides growers with a level of automation previously unattainable. Customers’ backers and investors see glasshouse automation as a viable means of controlling or mitigating business risks associated with seasonal labour shortages and the effect of Covid-19 on workforce availability and workplace hygiene. AI also brings an added bonus: the early detection of devastating crop diseases such as tomato brown rugose fruit virus (ToBRFV).
In recent years, the UK has emerged to take top billing as Europe’s most dynamic agritech ecosystem and Xihelm’s positioning – independent, R&D focused and a potentially disruptive, commercially ready product, with far-reaching effects on the security of food and supply chains – has caught the interest of a diverse range of investors. Reassured by our knowledge of the sector and our grasp of the available opportunities – now and in the future – their input and support ensure Xihelm continues to be ahead of the game.