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Advanced Farm Technologies, a startup based in Davis, California, raised $25 million in Series B funding for the development of fruit harvesting robots. The company already has a strawberry picking robot, and it said the funding will help it adapt the technology for apple harvesting.
Designed to work alongside manual harvest crews, the TX Robotic Strawberry Harvester automatically senses and picks ripe fruit from in-soil strawberry beds with a food-grade, soft robotic gripper. The purpose-built machine consists of multiple robots able to withstand the rigors of outdoor, in-soil conditions with computer vision and machine learning technology to navigate fields and harvest fruit autonomously up to 24 hours a day.
Broadening the types of fruit this system can pick is a smart move. Abundant Robotics was developing a harvesting robot that initially targeted only apples. The company went out of business in July 2021 before it was able to widen the capabilities of its system. Building a robot that picks a single type of fruit could severely limit the usage of such a system.
“It is gratifying to have the ongoing support and commitment from our early investors in this funding round. It reflects all of our team’s hard work to develop and bring our TX Strawberry Harvester to the market,” said Kyle Cobb, president, and co-founder of Advanced Farm Technologies. “Our success is also a testament to our grower partners in strawberries and apples who work with us to find creative ways to introduce automation into their ranches today while giving us the feedback we need to rapidly iterate and improve the tech.”
With the Series B funding, the company has raised about $34 million since it was founded in 2017 by Carl Allendorph and Cobb. It closed its $7.5 million Series A round in August 2019.
“The Advanced Farm team demonstrated tremendous discipline with the earlier fundraising, making $10 million go a very long way in developing and commercializing its technology quickly and creating the foundation needed to go to market,” said Rouz Jazayeri, managing partner, Catapult Ventures. “With this latest investment round, the company can scale its team and robotic technology, with an eye toward expanding market share and adapting its technology for new crops, to deliver on the promise of automated harvesting for 21st-century farming.”
Advanced Farm Technologies said it has assisted some of the leading strawberry growers, including GoodFarms, The Oppenheimer Group (Oppy), and Naturipe to bring tens of thousands of pounds of fresh fruit to market.
“We are fortunate to have the opportunity to work with the best in our industry and continue to be impressed by the practical, hands-on approach of Advanced Farm – a proven team that is building upon their past success to bring meaningful automation solutions to farming,” said Dave Murray, partner at GoodFarms. “Automating our harvest with the Advanced Farm TX Robotic Strawberry Harvester helps us serve our customers, allowing us to better support our farmworkers, and expand operations to meet the consumer demand for high quality, affordable fresh fruit.”
The Series B funding round was led by Catapult Ventures and included all the Series A investors: Kubota Corporation, Yamaha Motor Corporation, and Impact Ventures.