Left Hand Robotics raised a $3.6 million funding round led by Catapult Ventures. Founded in 2016, the Longmont, Colo.-based startup is looking to expand distribution of its RT-1000 multi-purpose robot that can mow large fields and plow snow.
The RT-1000 comes with multiple attachments that can be switched out depending on the task at hand. The robot follows a pre-programmed path that users can create and edit themselves as needed. According to Left Hand Robotics, the RT-1000 operates autonomously using GPS technology. It uses lidar, radar and six cameras for real-time object detection and avoidance. The RT-1000 uses a NVIDIA Jetson TX2 to help process all the data the robot captures.
The RT-1000 mows up to two acres and clears two miles of sidewalk per hour and can mow 20 acres on one tank of gas. The robot, about the size of an ATV, has been shipping for several months. Left Hand Robotics said it’s being used to mow baseball fields and open spaces in cities and university campuses.
“Michigan State University has had a mowing robot on campus this summer. We place it at its starting point and select that location’s path program from the smartphone app, and then it takes off on its own,” said Jeremiah Saier, GIS Analyst at MSU. “In the future, we can imagine multiple robots serving double duty for us by both mowing and clearing snow.”
The RT-1000 robot costs $55,000 and has an annual subscription fee of $4,250. The fee covers automatic software updates and other system upgrades. Left Hand Robotics claims the ROI is “often less than one year.”
“We looked at labor-intensive industries to see where robots could dramatically reduce the workload and where labor was scarce,” says Left Hand Robotics CEO and Co-founder Terry Olkin. “The landscaping industry is second only to construction in terms of the high demand for workers that’s unmet. Now workers can focus on complex tasks and offload the most repetitive, labor-intensive tasks to a robot. One of the most physically taxing chores is snow shoveling – a robot can clear snow much faster with no risk of worker injury.”
The Kobi Company, founded in 2015, was working on a similar robot that has three modules to mow lawns, mulch leaves and plow snow. The company has not been very active on its website or social media channels, however, so the status of the company is unknown. Its latest blog and tweet were both posted two-plus years ago. It does say on its website that “all our early bird units for test users are gone,” but it’s unclear when that message was posted. The Robot Report reached out to Kobi founder Steven Waelbers about the status of the company but has yet to hear back.
Mountain View, Calif.-based Catapult Ventures announced earlier in 2019 a $55 million fund with a focus on robotics and AI. It has invested in drones, fruit picking robots (Advanced Farm Technologies), self-driving trucks (Starsky Robotics) and now Left Hand Robotics.
“We like to identify the biggest market opportunities and then figure out how to fill those gaps with a focused technology solution,” says Rouz Jazayeri, Co-Founder and Managing Director at Catapult Ventures. “Left Hand Robotics is spot on with their focus – they’re taking the lead to bring robotic automation to the commercial landscaping industry where it’s needed most. The robotic solution they’ve built is both elegant and practical, and we love the fact that they are already shipping commercial products.”