Business Context

Established in Tiptree, Essex, in 1885, Wilkin & Sons Limited is a manufacturer of preserves, marmalades and associated products. It is very well-known around the world for its "Tiptree" brand of fruit preserves.

Wilkin & Sons’ vision is to achieve fungicide-free production, improve yield and ultimately grow revenue. Sales of fresh and preserved strawberries constitute a significant proportion of the firm’s revenue, so any improvement in yield would have a positive commercial impact on the business.

The company forecasted that yield increases through disease control measures and a price point increase through marketing as “fungicide-free”, together with a reduction in labour costs and on plant protection programmes, would see the firm growing their market share.

Research solution

Wilkin & Sons partnered with the School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering and the School of Life Sciences at Essex on a first-of-its-kind Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP). The business is currently benefiting from leading expertise in signal and image processing and Internet of Things (IoT) from Dr Vahid Abolghasemi and Dr Hossein Anisi and on plant productivity from Professor Tracy Lawson. The KTP project aims to increase yield productivity by preventing contagious plant diseases such as mildew and botrytis.

The team plans to take data from drone surveys using novel IoT approaches in order to develop a system capable of detecting and predicting disease outbreaks, by employing techniques such as spectral analysis, image processing and machine learning.

Business value

With a disease monitoring and prediction system, Wilkin & Sons hopes to be able to reduce and eventually eliminate the use of preventative spraying in their crops. This will not only offer significant commercial returns by improving yield, but will also have a positive impact on the environment.

Thanks to their partnership with Essex, Wilkin & Sons has also forged strategic links with the Head of Essex's Robotics Lab to explore how the technology developed as part of the project may futureproof the business.

In the longer term, Wilkin & Sons plans to licence the disease detection and prediction system developed as part of the KTP. They have predicted that the disease monitoring and prediction system will help them to grow their market share which should show significant additional revenue in the longer term.

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Innovate UK funding

Essex has successfully secured more Innovate UK KTP funding than any other university in the East of England or London (and we're number 1 in the UK). You could access around £150k through this program or equally partner with us on a Smart grant and secure up to £3m to work with a consortia on your project. Essex will lead the entire process and have a sector-leading track record at winning this funding. All projects are commercially driven and underpinned by world class research from Essex.

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