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TerraClear, an applied AI and robotics company, announced Series A funding of $25 million led by Madrona Venture Group, bringing the company’s total funding to $38 million. The agtech company is building solutions to help clear fields of rocks. The application is interesting as rocks in fields break machinery and slow precision farming, thus it’s a necessary job. TerraClear’s current Rock Picker solutions picks an average of 400 rocks per hour and can pick up rocks of up to 300 pounds.
TerraClear released the first Rock Picker solution earlier this year (2021) and it quickly sold out. The company is busy with a second manufacturing run which will be delivered at the end of this summer. The solution is as easy to use as pushing a button. The Rock Picker can be mounted on a compact track loader or skid steer and will soon be compatible with front-end loaders on tractors. It takes less than five minutes to mount and works in any field condition. From traditionally cultivated to no-till conditions, seeded fields, stubble, or even pastureland, the Rock Picker minimizes compaction and ground disturbance on the soil. This is an increasingly important factor in modern farming which emphasizes soil conservation practices such as no-till and minimum till practices. In addition to expanding the windows when rocks can be picked, the tools expand who can pick rocks, enabling both the young and old to contribute.
Watch this video to see it in action:
Founder Brent Frei grew up on his family’s farm in Idaho. “This is something I’ve personally dealt with my entire life,” said founder and CEO, Brent Frei. “There are more than 400 million arable acres worldwide that have been waiting for a cost-effective and productive solution to this problem. Repetitive tasks like this are optimal targets for automation, and the technologies we are bringing to the field dramatically reduce the labor and time needed to prep fields for planting.”
Over the last year, the company has perfected the Rock Picker solution by deploying it for beta customers as a “rock picking service”. In the rock picking service, a farmer’s field is mapped with aerial drones that identify the location of all “pickable rocks” in the field. Then an operator runs the Rock Picker equipped tractor through the field and picks all of the rocks. Rocks damage farm equipment. Medium to large farms incur anywhere from $5,000 to $150,000 worth of damage and cost annually, even more for the very large farms. Spread out over hundreds of millions of acres across the globe, that’s a massive unaddressed opportunity.
“The TerraClear team has incredible passion and expertise in both the customer base and the technology needed to address this huge problem for farmers. Rock picking fits into the category of dull, dangerous, and dirty. It’s a perfect application of robotics and AI and we are excited to back this team and mission,” said Matt McIlwain, Managing Director, Madrona Venture Group.
Next step: an automated rock picking unit
TerraClear’s future product roadmap includes integrating AI and computer vision with a fully autonomous rock picker platform, creating a Roomba for rocks. “We’re working every day towards a fully autonomous solution for rock picking – and that is a multi-year project. Along the way, we’re building solutions that solve this problem better than anything out there,” says President Trevor Thompson. The TerraClear team’s iterative approach to building means getting real solutions in the hands of farmers faster.
TerraClear also offers mapping and clearance services for those looking for a plug and play solution to picking rocks. Working with TerraClear or 3rd party drone services, Terraclear maps fields, uses AI to locate large rocks and then deploys the Rock Picker to clear the field. Few agtech solutions couple the ‘information’ with the ‘physical solution’ in a true end-to-end offering. While both have proven to be useful as standalone products for farmers, their combined level of efficiency really opens the opportunity for a profitable service business as well, something that the company is trialing in multiple regions this fall.
In addition to scaled production and sales in 2022, the team will use the injection of capital to accelerate the development of autonomy and grow the team in Washington and Idaho. TerraClear’s Rock Picker is currently available for pre-order.