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Small Robot Company (SRC) is shutting down as it failed to get the funding needed to reach its next phase. The company has entered liquidation after an extended battle for survival. Despite having a signed term sheet, the awaited investment failed to materialize before the company’s financial runway ran out.
“We were the victims of the valley of death,” SRC told The Robot Report. “We just don’t have the funding ecosystem for hardware (or indeed any tech!) that [companies] have in the US. Or the appetite for risk. Agriculture is perceived as very risky. Government funding only covers [development] to prototype.”
As of February 1st, Kroll has been appointed as administrator to oversee the sale of assets. Collaborating with Kroll, efforts are being made to identify potential acquirers to secure a future for some of the team and the technology, which continues to offer benefits to farmers and the environment.
Tom, Dick and Harry at your service
The Salisbury England-based company developed an autonomous platform for agriculture applications. The company was also famous for the everyday names of its robots. “Tom” was the first mobile robot released by SRC and was a weeding platform. “Dick” was designed to be a weed-zapper, but the robot didn’t make it out of early trials. And “Harry” was designed to be a planting robot. The company’s AI to identify the weeds was called “Wilma.”
Founded in 2017, by Ben Scott-Robinson, Sarra Mander, and Sam Watson Jones, the company raised a total of $13.18 million over 6 funding rounds, according to Crunchbase, and grew to over 50 employees. The latest funding round was in September 2022.
Agtech is a competitive market
Several global startups are competing in this market for smaller format agtech mobile robots. These autonomous mobile robots are designed for smaller farms, and especially for high-value crops. These companies include Burro, farm-ng, Naio Technologies, and SwarmFarm. farm-ng recently closed a $10M series A, and Burro recently announced the launch of its newest model, the Burro Grande.
This news comes on the heels of other recent bad news for some robot companies in January, including the RoboTire bankruptcy, the termination of Amazon’s acquisition of iRobot, and layoffs at Locus Robotics, Vecna Robotics and other companies.