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Wootzano To Expand North East Base As Demand For Robotics Tech Rockets

Robotics firm Wootzano has announced plans to expand its North East headquarters on the back of rapidly-rising demand for its tech.

The NETPark based business – winner of the innovation award at the North Est Business Awards – designs systems that can pick up fruit and vegetables to be packaged. Its technology has human-like “skin” to give the robotic arms the sensory awareness needed to delicately pack soft fruit and vegetables, without causing bruising or damage.

The AI-enabled Avarai robots, which are assembled at Wootzano’s laboratories in Explorer 2 at the Sedgefield business park, can also estimate the colour, weight and quality before packing the fresh produce into punnets for delivery to retailers. The company says its robots can reduce human labour requirements on fruit packing lines by up to 60% and also help customers reduce costs by up to 30%.

READ MORE: Heather Mills announces VBites Food to enter administration after 30 years in business READ MORE: Hitachi slashes value of Durham factory amid crisis in rail industry Wootzano’s chief operating officer Jesse Opoku said: “At a time when the fruit packing labour market is very challenging across Europe and North America, compounded by Brexit, Covid, and the movement of people, Wootzano’s robots are providing a niche solution using game-changing, world-class technology that has been developed here on NETPark.”

The company, founded in 2018 by electronics inventor Dr Atif Syed, initially launched at the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) on NETPark but has since moved to offices and lab space in Explorer 2, giving it the room in needs to grow and become fully commercialised.

However, as demand for its services grows overseas, the company said it has longer term plans to expand into larger facilities on the science park’s Phase 3 development. Phase 3 of the County Durham park will create almost 233,000 sq ft of additional space, with up to 12 speculative units from 11,500 sq ft to 35,700 sq ft.

Steelwork arrived on site for Phase 3 last month, marking a milestone in the £61m expansion plan, devised to allow more science, engineering and technology companies like Wootzano to grow.

The expansion plans follow on from a landmark £37.4m ($47m) contract in the US which it said will be transformative for the company. It signed a three-year agreement with an unnamed organisation that will see its robots sold across California.

Mr Opoku, who has a PhD in Electrical and Electronic Engineering with a master’s degree in Nanoelectronics, said: “NETPark has proven to be a great location for the team, and we are proud to be the leading robotics business in the North East. A move to larger premises here will allow us to expand operations while also developing new applications for our unique technology.”

Sarah Slaven, managing director of Business Durham, the business support service for Durham County Council, added: “Wootzano is the perfect example of a highly innovative business that has flourished on NETPark, where it has had the support and resources it has needed in its infancy to ambitiously scale up and commercialise, in order to infiltrate the global marketplace.”

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