Agriculture is poised to become one of the next major categories in robotics.
Agriculture is poised to become one of the next major categories in robotics. Everyone needs to eat, and much of what we consume in this part of the world comes from large agricultural companies. Farm work is physically demanding, requiring long hours in sometimes extreme environments. It can also be challenging to hire and retain personnel in an industry that often relies on migrant workers.
Over the past decade, we have seen a number of startups attempting to automate work in the fields. It can be a challenging space to find a foothold, and many of these startups ultimately ended up selling to the tractor giant John Deere, which seems determined to fully own the category.
For the most part, young companies venturing into the field begin with a single goal, such as weed removal or apple picking. Founded right at the beginning of the pandemic, the San Francisco Bay Area-based startup Farm-ng has cast a much wider net. The company's first system, Amiga, is modular, allowing it to be used for a wide range of tasks. The company claims to have embraced the concept of modularity while working with farmers in the Pajaro Valley and Salinas Valley in the vast central coast of California.
"This naturally led us to a modular system, like Legos for our farming customers, allowing them to build their solutions at an extremely low cost," said Claire Delaunay, former Nvidia employee and now CTO. "We strive to make our technology accessible to a farmer, both mechanically easy to adapt and software-maintainable to meet their needs... Having a modular approach is not new to the agricultural industry. Tractors are highly modular, and there's a large group of dealers and integrators who can customize your tractor for a specific crop and practices, and for the specifics of your tools."
This morning, Farm-ng announces a $10 million Series A funding round. The round, led by Acre Venture Partners, follows last year's seed round. The startup has deployed around 100 Amiga units in less than 18 months. Some of the new funding will be used to increase production at the Watsonville manufacturing facility (in the aforementioned Pajaro Valley).
Farm-ng promises a quick return on investment for field-deployed systems.
"Integrating Amiga into farming operations has brought significant time and cost efficiencies for our customers," says Delaunay. "In a customer study, we saw that Amiga reduced weekly working time in a variety of use cases, including planting, weeding, and compost spreading. In this study, we saw the number of weekly working hours reduced by 50% to 80%... Further concrete data is expected after one or two growing seasons, but anecdotally, our customers have been excited about the opportunities presented by a leaner operation."