AgricTech startup Advanced Farm becomes the world’s first company to bring robotically picked strawberries to grocery stores; bags $25M in funding
Farming is hard work and the conditions can be grueling and repetitive. There’s a shortage of labor in the agricultural sector as only a few people want to work on farms. Most young people today will rather buy and sell cryptocurrencies to make a quick profit instead of working on picking fruits on farms. That’s why agriculture is a growing area for robotics.
Today, more than a dozen AgriTech startups are leveraging robotics to automate some of the farming works that were once done by humans. From using AI to produce 30 times more food per acre than traditional farms using indoor farming to precision farming, these startups are using AI and robotics to forever change the way farming is done.
One of the startups that is revolutionalizing the way we farm is Advanced Farm Technologies, a Davis, Calif.-based startup and a developer of strawberry-picking robots. In 2019, Advanced Farm became the world’s first company to commercialize robotic strawberry harvesting, bringing fresh fruit to market using its innovative T-6 platform designed specifically for soil-planted beds.
Today, Advanced Farm announced it has $25 million in Series B funding round to support the company’s growth in strawberry harvesting and the adaptation of its technology to apple harvesting. The round was led by Catapult Ventures and joined by all the Series A investors including Kubota Corporation, Yamaha Motor Corporation, and Impact Ventures.
According to the research firm, Tractica Research, the number of agricultural robots shipping will reach 727,000 units per year by 2025. In addition to fruit-picking robots, robots are also used for milking cows, planting and monitoring crops, and managing harvests.
“It is gratifying to have the ongoing support and commitment from our early investors in this funding round. It reflects all of our team’s hard work to develop and bring our TX Strawberry Harvester to the market,” said Kyle Cobb, President, and Co-Founder of Advanced Farm Technologies. “Our success is also a testament to our grower partners in strawberries and apples who work with us to find creative ways to introduce automation into their ranches today while giving us the feedback we need to rapidly iterate and improve the tech.”
Designed to work alongside manual harvest crews, the Advanced Farm TX Robotic Strawberry Harvester automatically senses and picks red, ripe fruit from in-soil strawberry beds with gentle, food-grade gripper technology. The purpose-built machine consists of multiple, rugged robots able to withstand the rigors of outdoor, in-soil conditions with sophisticated computer vision and machine learning technology to navigate fields and harvest fruit autonomously up to 24 hours a day. The early market success of the TX Robotic Strawberry Harvester is a promising solution for the strawberry and apple industries that face persistent labor supply challenges.
“The Advanced Farm team demonstrated tremendous discipline with the earlier fundraising, making $10 million go a very long way in developing and commercializing its technology quickly and creating the foundation needed to go to market,” said Rouz Jazayeri, Managing Partner of Catapult Ventures. “With this latest investment round, the company can scale its team and robotic technology, with an eye toward expanding market share and adapting its technology for new crops, to deliver on the promise of automated harvesting for 21st-century farming.”
Deploying its TX Robotic Strawberry Harvester fleet to work in fields in the major strawberry-producing centers of California, Advanced Farm has assisted the world’s leading strawberry growers, including GoodFarms, The Oppenheimer Group (Oppy), and Naturipe to bring tens of thousands of pounds of fresh fruit to market.
Founded in 2017, Advanced Farm Technologies develops robotic technology for farmers. With more than $70 million in customer commitments, Advanced Farm is working to innovate its technology through collaborative partnerships, including one with the U.C. Davis breeding program, to develop a full spectrum of automated solutions for in-field strawberry harvesting from picking to sorting and packing.
“We are fortunate to have the opportunity to work with the best in our industry and continue to be impressed by the practical, hands-on approach of Advanced Farm – a proven team that is building upon their past success to bring meaningful automation solutions to farming,” said Dave Murray, Partner at GoodFarms. “Automating our harvest with the Advanced Farm TX Robotic Strawberry Harvester helps us serve our customers, allowing us to better support our farmworkers, and expand operations to meet the consumer demand for high quality, affordable fresh fruit.”
Below is a video of the Advanced Farm robot in action.