A Scottish fruit grower is predicting a huge swing towards the use of machines for picking strawberries.

David Leslie at Lethendy, near Perth, has imported 10 machine pickers from the US and has another six on order. He has modified their design and is now marketing them through his Viking Tunnels business.

Leslie grows 350 acres of soft fruit, including 130 acres of strawberries in

polytunnels for major retailers. He expects at least two-thirds of his crop to be machine-picked next year.

The machines are the width of a polytunnel and move at two inches a minute. Each has space for 10 human pickers who lie on their stomachs to pick the berries that pass below.

Leslie is delighted with the upturn in picking performance, which has cut costs by 30%. He said: "The worst pickers have gone from about 4-5kg of fruit to more than 12kg an hour."

However, the best handpickers can still outpick the new machines he said.