FarmWise turns to Roush to build autonomous vegetable weeders

FarmWise wants robots to do the dirty part of farming: weeding. With that thought, the San Francisco-based startup enlisted the help of Michigan-based manufacturing and automotive company Roush to build prototypes of the self-driving robots. An early prototype is pictured above.

Financial details of the collaboration were not released.

The idea is these autonomous weeders will replace herbicides and save the grower on labor. By using high-precision weeding, the robotic farm hands can increase the yield of the crops by working day and night to remove unwanted plants and weeds. After all, herbicides are in part because weeding is a terrible job.

With Roush, FarmWise will build a dozen prototypes win 2019 with the intention of scaling to additional units in 2020. But why Michigan?

“Michigan is well-known throughout the world for its manufacturing and automotive industries, the advanced technology expertise and state-of-the-art manufacturing practices,” Thomas Palomares, FarmWise co-founder and CTO said. “These are many of the key ingredients we need to manufacture and test our machines. We were connected to Roush through support from PlanetM, and as a technology startup, joining forces with a large and well-respected legacy automaker is critical to support the scale of our manufacturing plan.”
Roush has a long history in Michigan as a leading manufacturing of high performance auto parts. More recently, the company has expanded its focus to using its manufacturing expertise elsewhere including robotics and alternative fuel system design.

“This collaboration showcases the opportunities that result from connecting startups like FarmWise with Michigan-based companies like Roush that bring their manufacturing know-how to making these concepts a reality,” said Trevor Pawl, group vice president of PlanetM, Pure Michigan Business Connect and International Trade at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. “We are excited to see this collaboration come to fruition. It is a great example of how Michigan can bring together emerging companies globally seeking prototype and production support with our qualified manufacturing base in the state.”

FarmWise was founded in 2016 and has raised $5.7 million through a seed-stage investment including an investment from Playground Global. TechCrunch first saw FarmWise during Alchemist Accelerator’s batch 15 demo day.