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Bonsai Robotics, a company that develops computer vision-based automation systems for harsh, off-road environments, has brought in $13.5 million in seed funding. The company plans to use the funding to accelerate its product roadmap and invest in hiring, sales, and marketing.
Acre Venture Partners led the round, which also included participation from E14, Congruent, Serra Ventures, Fall Line Capital, SNR Ventures, and Andros. Angel investors in the round included Travis Deyle, the founder of Cobalt Robotics, Lee Redden, the founder of Blue River Technologies, and Matt Barnard, the founder of Plenty.
“To date, GPS-based computer vision systems have failed in harvest conditions, meaning all machinery had to be operated by humans,” Ugur Oezdemir, co-founder of Bonsai Robotics, said. “Our team has a deep background in ag tech, autonomous vehicles and computer vision, and we were determined to solve this problem. We did it through state-of-the-art 3D vision techniques using standard, durable automotive cameras to keep the cost down.”
Bonsai Robotics focuses on bringing autonomy to environments where traditional GPS, stereovision, time of flight sensors, and LiDAR-based autonomy systems often fail. The company’s first market is in nut orchards, an environment that can be so challenging to navigate that decades-old autosteer technology can’t make the cut.
Bonsai’s systems are integrated with OEM farm equipment to allow vehicles to autonomously traverse orchards without human operators. The company utilizes AI SLAM technology that draws on a data set of tens of thousands of acres, allowing the equipment to operate in adverse conditions that include remote areas with dust, debris, heavy vibration, and unreliable GPS coverage.
This year, several California growers participated in trails of Bonsai’s technology, including Pomona Farming.
“The results we saw from Bonsai Robotics were outstanding,” Ceil Howe at Pomona Farming said. “The system seamlessly adapted to any field condition and enabled us to harvest faster than when we used traditional shakers alone. This is the most transformative technology I’ve seen in agtech since the advent of GPS – it will redefine how we approach orchard management and harvesting.”
“Early feedback from OEMs and our grower customers has been outstanding,” said Tyler Niday, co-founder and CEO of Bonsai Robotics. “With our use case now proven, Bonsai Robotics can move forward with expansion into other areas of agriculture and beyond to other off-road environments. We’re thankful to our investors and customers for their support and looking forward to what’s to come.”
The company works with many different machines used in an orchard and has already forged relationships with key OEMs, including OMC and Flory Industries, and with its strategic partner Danfoss.