FEROX: AI, Data, and drones to increase the safety of wild berry pickers

Finland is an idyllic wonderland, characterised by its untamed forestry, wild berries, and vast lakes. These natural resources have a major impact on the quality of life in Finland, so much so that Finland ranks number one on the World Happiness Report. Finnish Forests are flourishing with naturally-grown wild berries. However, despite their abundance, it is estimated that less than 10% of the total wild berry crop is harvested. Unfortunately, berry pickers are scarce and working conditions in the forests are unsafe and difficult to regulate. The majority of the berry picking is conducted by foreign workers, unfamiliar with the Finnish language and landscape. To better manage and protect these workers, the FEROX project was born.

On the 15th of September, the FEROX project was launched with a partner meeting in Tampere, Finland. The FEROX project is made up of 9 organisations across multiple industries. The FEROX consortium hopes to combine expertise and deliver a fully automated solution. Ultimately, the project hopes to create safer working conditions for berry pickers.

The FEROX Vision

FEROX envelops a deep understanding of how artificial intelligence is changing the dynamics of manual work. The project pulls from advances in AI, data, and drone technology to map, monitor, and manage berry pickers and their environment.

The FEROX vision can be broken down into 4 main objectives:


1. To develop a solution that supports harvesting activities and promotes worker safety. The solution will be built from artificial intelligence, computer vision, and drones.

2. To validate the design and engineering approaches in two phases:

  • The navigation phase. In this phase, we aim to integrate the solution focusing on safety, forest modelling, and crop assessment. These use cases will test the solution’s effectiveness in navigation and locating services.
  • The logistics optimisation phase. The second phase aims to demonstrate the solution in operational environments. By doing so, we aim to optimise operations and support for workers.

3. To develop technical services to improve overall working conditions. This involves developing equipment, acquisition systems, software applications, and a human-computer interface.

4. Lastly, we will evaluate the impact of FEROX on workers by measuring their conditions.


Meet the FEROX team

The Ferox team is a consortium made up of nine partner organisations:

Deep Forestry

Deep Forestry builds drones to automate and digitise commercial forestry fieldwork and tree-based agriculture. Within the FEROX project, their role is to provide drones equipped with cameras and sensors that will collect much-needed data.

Fondazione Bruno Kessler (FBK)

Fondazione Bruno Kessler is an award-winning research institute. FBK specialises in the areas of Information Technology, AI, Sustainable Energy, Sensors and Devices, Cybersecurity, Digital Society, and Digital Industry. Their expertise will inform much of the technical aspects of the project, like machine vision and 3D applications.

Tampere University (TAU)

Tampere University is a multidisciplinary institution in Finland, focused on research and innovation in technology, health, and society. Within the FEROX project, their areas of focus are the research and dissemination of the solution’s core technologies.

Polytechnic University of Valencia (UPV)

The Polytechnic University of Valencia is Spain’s leading technological university. UPV’s role within FEROX is focused on the technical management of the overall project, as well as developing core technologies.

Gemmo AI 

Sparkd helps companies innovate their products with computer vision and deep learning technologies. Gemmo’s role within the FEROX project is to design and develop computer vision and machine learning algorithms. By doing so, Sparkd aims to fulfil three goals; optimising yield, increasing workers’ safety, and increasing the quality of the harvest.

National Land Survey of Finland (DF)

The National Land Survey of Finland is a 200-year-old organisation that safeguards, monitors, and maps Finnish land. As part of the FEROX project, The National Land Survey of Finland will support research and mapping efforts.


INGENIARIUS is an organisation devoted to the development of mobile robotics solutions. Within the FEROX project, INGENIARIUS will spearhead system integration by coordinating the efforts of all the partners. The INGENIARIUS  team is also responsible for fleet management and the development of the user interface.

ARKTISET AROMIT – Arctic Flavours Association (AFA)

The Arctic Flavours Association is a Finnish non-wood forest products association focused on the production and maintenance of wild berries, mushrooms, herbs, and special forest products. Their goal is to promote the gathering, processing, and use of natural products while also improving their quality. The AFA will lead the dissemination and demonstration of the FEROX project.

Cranfield University

Cranfield University is a specialist postgraduate institution specialising in the fields of technology and management. Within the FEROX project, CU will conduct human analysis, with the aim of measuring the psychological impact of the project on workers. Cranfield University will also be key to the ethical management of the FEROX project.

How will AI, Data, and Drones help wild berry pickers?

Through the application of AI, data, and drone solutions, pickers will benefit from a new way of working. The FEROX team will employ autonomous drones fitted with cameras and sensors. This hardware will collect data, create 3D models of the forests, and accurately estimate the locations, amount, and types of berries. The collected data will be used to create AI models that will aid workers in locating berries. FEROX will also provide navigation and locating services, as well as physical support, to wild berry pickers. The FEROX solution will contribute to overall worker safety.

Ultimately, the FEROX project will implement tools to create a safer and more reliable environment for pickers. 

What other commercial applications will this new technology have?

We predict that the story of the FEROX project will not end in the woodlands. The FEROX project is likely to evolve into new territories. We project major impacts across three main sects:

Science: The project will bring forward new findings about the effects and benefits of AI technologies on human workers.

Society: FEROX has the ability to improve trust in and acceptance of AI, data, and drone technology at large. Locals may feel encouraged to engage in healthy, commercial activities with the help of such technology.

Economy: Increasing the overall yield of wild berries will in turn create new business opportunities.

Final Thoughts 

As the lead AI partner of the FEROX consortium, we are eager to see where this journey takes us. Keep an eye out for updates on the project as we work toward a safer future. 

Work with Gemmo today for your AI needs.

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Author: Johanna Walsh 

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