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Verdant Robotics announced the close of $46.5 million in Series A funding, an investment period that took three rounds over the last three years. The investment will enable the company to scale the production of its advanced agricultural robotic cultivation technology and accelerate go to market programs. With the close of this round, the company has raised a total of $46.5 million to date (source: Crunchbase).
In this round, lead investor Cleveland Avenue was joined by DCVC Bio, Future Ventures, SeaX Ventures and all existing investors, including Autotech Ventures, Cavallo Ventures and AgFunder. This level of investment is a positive sign for the growth and trajectory of ag robotics.
Verdant is an innovator in the smart implement sub-market of agtech. The technology developed and employed by Verdant enables the smart implement to autonomously cultivate, weed and specialty crops.
Vision cameras image the ground underneath the implement, then use artificial intelligence to identify crop plants, beneficials, and weeds. The weeds are targeted for removal while beneficial and crop plants are nurtured and treated as necessary to maximize growth.
Unlike self-driving tractor companies, Verdant is focusing on deploying its solution as a standard implement. It can be attached behind either a manually driving or autonomous tractor, which future-proofs the design and makes it immediately applicable to tens of thousands of acres where no automation is currently in operation.
The solution also serves as a data gathering platform, collecting information about the current state of crops from the cameras used to identify and classify what it sees in the ground.
Robot-as-a-Service requires a large investment to build a fleet
Verdant delivers its solution in a Robots-As-A-Service (RaaS) business model. For customers, RaaS helps to reduce the upfront investment and transfers the costs from a CAPEX decision to an OPEX decision. It also reduces the risk for deploying new technology, as the RaaS vendor doesn’t get paid if the system doesn’t operate as advertised. In many markets, RaaS is a win-win for both the customers and vendor as it increases customer intimacy and closes the loop faster on innovation.
RaaS is a great business model when the customer isn’t expecting to become a robotics expert. Although farmers are often on the cutting edge of technology that helps them do their job faster, better and cheaper. Farmers always balance risk and return as they operate on tight margins, and are always subject to the climate from year to year.
For the vendor, however, it can mean a longer runway of investment with larger and more funding rounds as the vendor builds out its operational fleet. The vendor keeps the fleet on its books and continues to upgrade and maintain the fleet throughout its working lifetime.
“Increasingly, consumers are demanding food that meets the trifecta of good for me, for my community and for the planet,” said Don Thompson, Founder and CEO of Cleveland Avenue, LLC. “Verdant offers next-level precision that growers – and our global food supply – need to meet these demands, not only in the next 20 years but in the next five.”
Since the company’s inception, Verdant’s mission has been to work side-by-side with farmers to solve their greatest future challenge, which is a shortage of farm labor. All the while, Verdant has been working to ensure that its robotic solution enables more growers to access regenerative and precision practices that support soil health, water conservation, carbon sequestration and nutrient-dense crops.
The combination of Verdant’s automation, deep learning, machine vision and sub-millimeter accuracy, which was designed by a team of world-class roboticists, has attracted the attention of the entire industry due to its capacity to solve multiple issues that are currently confronting the agricultural sector.
“Verdant’s ultra-precision spraying platform is here today — adding new value while doing more with less. Thanks to the ongoing support from our investors, growers can thrive as we deploy this transformative technology together,” said Gabe Sibley, PhD, co-founder and CEO of Verdant Robotics. “At Verdant, we believe that an outsized opportunity requires an oversized effort that only robotics can deliver for agriculture.”
“Autonomous vehicles and dancing robots may get headlines, but there really is no more impactful area for robotics, automation, and machine learning to be applied than agriculture. Growing abundant foods in sustainable ways is our generation’s biggest challenge and the founding principle behind Verdant Robotics,” said Sibley.