AMP Robotics, a Denver, Colorado-based startup creating robotic systems that can automatically sort recyclable material, today announced that it extended its Series C round to $99 million, thanks to an investment from Microsoft’s Climate Innovation Fund. That’s up from $91 million when the round closed in November.
The extended Series C, which saw participation from investors including Congruent Ventures and Wellington Management (who co-led), Blue Earth Capital, Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners, Tao Capital Partners, XN, Sequoia Capital, GV, Range Ventures and Valor Equity Partners, brings AMP’s total raised to around $178 million.
“The capital is helping us scale our operations, including deploying technology solutions to retrofit existing recycling infrastructure and expanding new infrastructure based on our application of AI-powered automation,” founder and CEO Matanya Horowitz told TechCrunch via email.
Horowitz founded AMP in 2014 after earning his PhD from Caltech. While pursuing his doctorate, he says he saw how powerful computer vision was becoming, and began exploring different areas where the technology could be most useful — including recycling.
“After visiting a recycling facility and seeing not only how demanding conditions were, but how challenging of a working environment it could be, I recognized this industry was a compelling opportunity for robotics,” Horowitz said. “The convergence of machine learning and robotics offered compelling opportunities to automate what had historically been tasks that were labor intensive, high cost, inconsistent and limiting.”
It’s also lucrative. The recycling industry contributes nearly $117 billion to the U.S. economy, according to the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, and the industry processes 130 million metric tons of valuable commodities annually.
Horowitz asserts that landfilled plastics represent significant losses to the U.S. economy — an average of around $7.2 billion in 2019, per the Department of Energy (DoE). Of the estimated 44 million metric tons of plastic waste managed domestically in 2019, approximately 86% was landfilled, 9% was combusted and 5% was recycled, according to the DoE.
The recovery of U.S. plastic packaging and food-service plastic alone could represent a pool of earnings of $2 billion to $4 billion per year, Horowitz estimates.
AMP’s primary customers are recycling facilities, which use the startup’s flagship product, a robotic sorting system called AMP Cortex, to sort, pick and reclaim plastics, cardboard, paper, cans, cartons and other containers and packaging types. AMP claims that Cortex can perform 80 to 120 picks per minute while remaining accurate with respect to what it’s sorting where.
Recently, AMP, which employs a team of around 200 people, unveiled a more compact solution dubbed AMP Cortex-C alongside an integrated, standalone facility offering for waste management companies. Horowitz says that the company’s robotic fleet of around 275 is now deployed in over 100 centers, including several owned by Waste Connections, its largest customer, and that AMP’s AI platform has identified over 75 billion objects to date.
“Our broad product suite directly deals with the core challenges of operating recycling facilities, and we have some other amazing technology soon to come,” Horowitz added. “We have a number of larger opportunities in front of us, from opportunities in Europe and across the world, to large, fleet-wide deployments of robots and deployment of fully automated sorting facilities. The capital helps us build the technologies and team to support these opportunities.”
On the subject, AMP plans to grow its secondary sortation business in the U.S. across its three production facilities in the Denver, Atlanta and Cleveland metro areas. In addition to providing robotics infrastructure and software to customers, AMP resells recyclable commodities like bespoke chemical and polymer blends to end-market buyers.