With labour in the spotlight due to ongoing concerns with Brexit negotiations, a new conference aims to show how robots can help fill the gap for the UK's horticulture industry.

International robotics experts will set out their stalls at SmartHort 2019, a two-day conference examining new technologies in light of current labour shortages in the industry.

Taking place on March 6 and 7, labour saving technologies from automated harvesters to lettuce peeling robots will be the theme of the first day. Improving production systems through innovations in product handling, intelligent production systems and novel crop protection techniques will also be explored on day two.

The free conference, organised by AHDB, is already fully booked, but will be live streamed, so anyone viewing online will be able to interact and ask questions of the expert panel.

Hayley Campbell-Gibbons, AHDB's horticulture chair, said: “If we want to improve labour efficiency in horticulture we must appeal to innovators and tech-savvy experts worldwide that have the answers. This conference is one of the ways we are helping bring the technology, inspiration and expertise directly to growers to help revolutionise the way we grow.”

As well as leading UK experts, such as Dr Simon Pearson, University of Lincoln, research specialists from around the world, including Wageningen University and Research, from the Netherlands and the Australian Centre for Field Robotics, will be sharing their developments.

Speaker highlights include:

• Tiptree and University of Essex – Developing a robotic strawberry harvester

• Warwick Motoring Group – From automotion to horticulture, harnessing new expertise for our industry

• Wageningen University and Research – The role of robots and humans working together

• Innovate UK – The funding landscape and enhancing investment in innovation.

Topics will include: sensors, data use and connectivity, vertical farming, soft robotics for delicate crops, precision weed control and state of the art packhouses.