When people ask me which categories of robotics are on the verge of the fastest growing, I often quote agriculture. The technology already has a strong foothold in places like warehouse and logistics, but it’s impossible to look at the American – and global – farming community without seeing a lot of potential for human-assisted automation.
The category still seems pretty broad – but not for lack of interest. There are a number of companies, large and small, carving out niches in the category. For now, at least, it looks like there is room for a number of different players. After all, needs vary widely from farm to farm and crop to crop.
Future Acres, based in Santa Monica, launches today, with plans to tackle grape picking. An outgrowth of Wavemaker Partners – the same company that gave the world Miso Robotics – the startup is also announcing its first robot, Carry.
“We see Carry as a sort of harvest sidekick for the workers. It’s a self-sufficient harvesting companion, ”CEO Suma Reddy told TechCrunch. “What he can do in the real world is haul up to 500 pounds. of crops in all terrains and all weather. It can increase production efficiency by up to 80%, which means it pays for itself in just 80 days. “
Carry relies on AI to transport hand-picked crops, working alongside humans rather than attempting to replace the delicate picking process altogether. The company expects farms to purchase multiple machines that can work in tandem to speed up their process and help reduce human pressure associated with manually moving crops.
The company is still in its infancy, having developed a prototype of Carry. It is also exploring certain partnerships for development. The systems would cost $ 10,000 to $ 15,000 up front, though the company says it is considering a robotics-as-a-service (RaaS) model, as a way to defer that cost.
Interest in agricultural robotics has only grown during the pandemic, amid health and work challenges. The company is building on this interest by launching a campaign on SeedInvest, hoping to raise $ 3 million, in addition to funding already provided by Wavemaker.