Saturday, May 28, 2022

Burro Raises $10.9M Series A to expand its line of Autonomous Farming Robots

Burro said it has raised $10.9 million in Series A funding. The company was formerly known as Augean Robotics Inc. Burro said it plans to “dramatically increase” the size of its staff, expand to more than 500 robots next year, and add capabilities to its autonomous farming products. 

“Many autonomy companies beginning in agriculture have focused first on autonomous tractors, autonomous weeding, and harvesting, where they try to comprehensively automate incredibly hard technical tasks, and often struggle to scale into a large market,” stated Charlie Andersen, CEO of Burro. “We’ve started instead with collaborative people-scale robots that help people by moving heavy things around.”

“The beauty of this approach is that we can scale today around a ubiquitous pain point in the most labor-intensive areas of agriculture, while also allowing our platform to capture data and learn about many environments—providing the foundation for us to scale to countless other applications,” he added.

Burro was founded in 2017 and the Company said its autonomous platform is designed to free growers and their workforce from tedious tasks, while building a modular base for greater autonomy.

The Philadelphia-based company claimed that it offers “the only fully autonomous, plug-and-play collaborative farming robot on the market.”

Growers of specialty crops such as table grapes, berries, and nursery products are largely un-mechanized and employ 88% of U.S. crop workers to do a diverse set of hard-to-mechanize tasks, according to Burro.

In California, where the bulk of specialty crops in the U.S. are grown, the number of farmworkers has declined 40% the past decade because of the strenuous nature of farm labor, increasing regulations, and rising wages.

Burro said that its autonomous farming robots can increase productivity in conventional production environments. Burros feature a patent-pending approach called Pop Up Autonomy, which means they work immediately out of the box by enabling everyone in a working environment to become an operator.

The autonomous farming robots do not require a centralized control or installation of burdensome infrastructure, said the company. Instead, they use computer vision and artificial intelligence to “learn on the fly” and to navigate autonomously while carrying various payloads, it said. 

The company said its autonomous farming robots are already increasing productivity, with one Burro enabling six-plus people to harvest up to 48% more fruit per day for a less than a two-month return on investment (ROI). 

Burro said it is already scaling in the $3 billion table-grapes market, and it is looking to expand into berries and nursery crops. It said it eventually aims to tackle the $1.2 trillion in U.S. outdoor labor with its modular automation.

“Today’s product is the first step in a fully autonomous farm stack: Robots that can navigate anywhere, perceive everything, and use dexterity to do increasingly complex work outdoors,” the company said.

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