Thorvald delivers first-ever season free of powdery mildew sprays

Thorvald delivers first-ever season free of powdery mildew sprays

Robot removes requirement for fungicides to control strawberry powdery mildew in world-first

Thorvald, an autonomous robotic platform which currently focuses on reducing powdery mildew through UV-C treatment, achieved complete control of the pathogen during this British growing season at both the farms it has operated on treating table top crops.

The robot delivered UV-C treatment to protect strawberry plants on approximately 10.6 hectares of land at Clock House Farm Ltd and 2 hectares at Hugh Lowe Farm Ltd, both in Kent, from March to October 2021.

During this period neither farm has needed to spray their strawberry plants with any kind of powdery-mildew-targeting chemical control agent, a world-first, despite 2021 being a year in which the pathogen has been especially prevalent. Oli Pascall, Managing Director, Clock House Farm, describes the combined work of the farm, Berry Gardens, a co-operative of British berry growers and the UK’s largest supplier of the nation’s berries and cherries, and Thorvald as an “industry leading result”.

Thorvald was developed by Saga Robotics and has been on trial in the UK since 2019, but 2021 has proven to be a watershed year with plant samples that have been examined having no traces of the fungal disease.

Pål Johan, CEO, Saga Robotics, says, “Throughout the season, our robots have efficiently treated over 7,300 linear kilometres of strawberries with completely effective treatment, 100% robot service reliability and no failures. These results have only increased what was already strong interest in our service.”

Dan Sargent, Head of Plant Sciences at Saga Robotics’ says, “Not a single chemical has been needed to protect these plants from powdery mildew all season, and that’s great news for the growers, their customers, and the consumers.”

Oli Pascall says, “Clock House Farm has always prided itself on being at the forefront of soft fruit innovation and has achieved this through strong strategic partnerships. The first three robots that Saga Robotics used to treat crops at Clock House Farm were bought by Berry Gardens and they delivered positive results in 2020, although there was evidence that we needed a stronger intensity of UV-C. This has been addressed with a positive outcome, and the improved results seen in 2021 are of an outstanding level of protection.”