Agtech is a massive industry aching to be disrupted by robotics. It’s a big category that’s going to require a number of solutions to various problems, though lately it’s been hit by a number of false starts. Abundant Robotics, for instance, went under, only to be resurrected by a new brand currently exploring the equity crowdfunding route. Meanwhile, strawberry-picking Traptic quite literally took itself out of the field, getting snapped up by Bowery for vertical farming applications.
Founded in 2018, East Bay-based Verdant Robotics has raised $21.5 million to date, including an $11.5 million Series A, back in 2019. The firm appears to be casting its net fairly wide, though it’s starting specifically with carrot crops, offering up its system through a RaaS (robotics as a service) model to select farmers.
The model seems to make the most sense for these systems — at least during the early stages. Likely most important to a company like Verdant is getting as many of its robotic systems as possible out to farms for real-world testing and data collection. Rental is a much easier way to do that, versus selling them outright — especially for an as of yet early technology, which likely requires technicians to implement (or at least monitor) these systems.
The “autonomous farm-robot” does dual-duty — spraying and laser weeding — while building AI-based crop modeling, designed to give farmers a better picture of what their plants crave.
“Farmers told us not to give them more data, but to figure out what to do with the mountains of data they already have, or better yet just go do it,” Verdant co-founder and CEO Gabe Sibley says. “They want a complete solution that takes action in real time and keeps farmers in control — all while improving profitability and automating dangerous, back-breaking field work.”
The company says it logged “thousands” of hours over the course of 2021 and plans to fully commercialize a “precision multi-action machine for orchard” next year.