Robotics pioneer Wootzano to swap County Durham for Tyneside in new HQ move

Robotics innovator Wootzano will move from its County Durham home to a new base on Tyneside to accommodate growth.

Robotics innovator Wootzano will move from its County Durham home to a new base on Tyneside to accommodate growth.

The boss of the firm, which has pioneered the development of ultra-dexterous fresh food packing robots, told BusinessLive the business will shift operations to Cobalt Business Park in the coming weeks amid continuing work to win overseas business. It marks a departure from Wootzano's NETPark base in Sedgefield, from where it has quickly built an international reputation for developing systems that boost productivity and solve labour shortages in the food production sector.

The technology business will soon occupy 14,000 sqft of the Cobalt 9B building formerly occupied by engineering giant Siemens. Atif Syed, the scientist founder of Wootzano, said the firm had outgrown its Sedgefield premises, where it does some assembly of its Avarai robots.

Wootzano will initially occupy the ground floor of the four-storey property, with first refusal given to the company for expansion into the floors above. It comes on the back of a series of international deals announced by the firm - including a significant Canadian contract announced earlier this year - with more in offing.

Tipped as one of the North East's most dynamic companies, Wootzano employs around 25 'core team members' but with just under 80 people overall when production and installation specialists and others are taken into account, with 40 people working out of California.

Dr Syed and colleagues have developed an electronic 'skin' which gives Wootzano's robotic packing arms a high level of sensory awareness, allowing them to estimate the precise force needed to handle soft produce such as tomatoes and other fruit without bruising or otherwise damaging them. The skin is part of the Avarai robotic unit, which is said to take up about the same space as a human worker and are equal in cost per hour, but which provide much greater productivity.

The technology has led to the North East firm landing a series of significant deals with distributors to global global food producers. In March it revealed a £161m agreement with Xcela Inc to provide robots into Canada. The deal means the two firms will work together over five years with the first set of products expected to arrive in Ontario this year, ready for use in the region's vine tomato growing industry.

And its latest success is with a Japanese customers to produce robots that will go into businesses near Nagoya, as well as for the packing of large 'amaou' strawberries. Dr Syed has also recently travelled to India to negotiate future work. That comes in addition to a significant agreement found in 2023 to supply Avarai systems into the multibillion-dollar Californian grape growing industry.

Last year Wootzano also brought international industry leaders to Tyneside as part of a showcase of its systems which are designed to work on a production line.

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