When people ask me which robotic categories are headed for the greatest growth, I often point to agriculture. Technology already has a strong foothold in places like warehousing and logistics, but it is impossible to see the American – and global – farming community and there is not much potential for human-assisted automation.
The category still seems quite open – but not for lack of interest. There are many large and small carving companies in the category. For now, at least, it seems that there is room for many different players. Ultimately, needs vary from farm to farm and crop to crop.
The Santa Monica-based Future Acres is launching today, with plans to pick grapes. An outbreak of Wavemaker Partners – the same firm that gave the world burger-flipping miso robotics – the startup is also announcing its first robot, Carrie.
“We see Carrie as a kind of harvesting sidekick for workers. It is an autonomous harvesting partner, ”CEO Suma Reddy tells ClearTips. “What it can do in the real world is transport up to 500 lbs. Of crops in all areas and in all seasons. It can increase production capacity by up to 80%, meaning it pays for itself in only 80 days. “
Carrie relies on AI to transport hand-picked crops, attempting to outright alter the delicate picking process rather than working with humans. The company is hopeful that a number of machines will be purchased in the fields that can work together to speed up its process and help reduce the human stress of manually rotating crops.
The company is still in an early stage, having developed a prototype of the carry. It is also exploring some partnerships for development. The system will run up front to $ 10,000- $ 15,000, though the company says it is looking at the RaaS (robotics as a service) model, as a way to reduce that cost.
Interest in agricultural robotics only increased during the epidemic amid health concerns and labor issues. The company is building on that interest by launching a campaign on SeedInwork, in hopes of raising $ 3 million, in addition to funds already provided by Wavemaker.