Earlier this month, Naio Technologies SAS closed a €14 million ($15.53 million U.S.) Series A funding round. The French agricultural robotics company has been developing field robots for weeding. They are intended to reduce physical strain on farmers and reduce reliance on chemical herbicides, which can harm the environment.
Engineers Aymeric Barthes and Gaëtan Séverac founded Naio Technologies in Toulouse, France, in 2011. They have worked closely with farmers, mostly in France, to design, manufacture, and market systems to help them in their daily work. The company had previously raised €3.2 million ($3.55 million) in 2015.
Bpifrance led the Series A round, with participation from impact investor Pymwymic and historical shareholders Demeter and Capagro. Naio Technologies said the new investment will help it “further capitalize on its position as a leader in agricultural robotics and reach the next level of technology maturity in order to prepare the robots for mass production.”
The promise of contributing to more sustainable agricultural practices, combined with the company’s ability to demonstrate market readiness over the past 18 months, contributed to the successful closing of the funding round, claimed Naio.
“Demeter and Capagro are very excited by this new financing round that will provide Naio with additional means to pursue a growing ag robotics market while maintaining its leadership position,” stated Riadh Shaiek, a partner at Demeter, and Tom Espiard, managing partner at Capagro. “We also welcome the participation of new and prominent investors that confirms the vision and attractive prospects we both shared about Naio when Demeter and Capagro first invested in the company at seed stage in 2015.“
Naio Technologies makes progress, scales up production
“In the past few years, we have made a lot of progress on navigation, user experience, and security aspects,” stated Barthès, CEO of Naio. “This makes our robots a solid base for precision farming. Our next step is to focus on further increase of the reliability of our robots as well as develop an efficient and large-scale deployment strategy.”
To date, nearly 150 Naïo robots tackle weeding tasks in Europe and the U.S. The Oz robot is designed for small-scale vegetable farms, the Dino robot works in large-scale vegetable fields, and the Ted robot handles weeding in vineyards. At the end of 2019, the Naïo Technologies team counted 60 employees, for a turnover or revenue of €2.8 million ($3.11 million) in 2018.
Naio Technologies said continuous innovation has enabled its robots to handle different crop types. To do so, Naïo developed a standard navigation system for its agricultural robots. This navigation system can be implemented on any off-road robot, said the company.
“In the next 10 years, there will be robots in every fields of Europe and North America,” said Séverac, co-founder of Naïo Technologies. “We recognize that the challenge is very ambitious, but we are convinced that we can meet it alongside our partners and stakeholders. Our goal is to ensure the ecological and social transition to sustainable agriculture”
“We are very proud to announce our investment in Naïo Technologies as pioneer in agricultural field robotics,” said Laura Panquet, who manages the Ecotechnologies Fund at Bpifrance. “Naïo enables farmers to transition their farms using the rise in precision farming and sustainable farming, and [it] allows them to meet both customer demand and current and forthcoming regulatory constraints regarding the limitation of chemical inputs in the fields.”
“It is our ambition to change systems for the better of people and planet, and we are very proud to join Naïo on this journey” said Monique Meulemans, investment manager at Pymwymic. “What sets Naïo apart is their commitment to make a difference in the daily practice of farmers and their drive for innovation to create more sustainable farming.”