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Robots planning to raid orchards: Abundant Robotics to automate apple harvests

Agricultural technology startup company Abundant Robotics to launch a robot with a taste for apples 

SRI International, a technology research organisation, is to spin-out and launch Abundant Robotics, an agriculture technology company focused on helping make nutritious foods such as apples and other tree fruits more accessible.

Abundant will commercialize and build on several years of research initiatives in agricultural robotics at SRI.

Dan Steere, CEO of Abundant Robotics, says: “While orchard yields have significantly improved over the last two decades, labor productivity has not.

“Our goal is to deliver robotic systems to ease the hardest jobs in agriculture. The first automated apple harvesting system that doesn’t bruise or damage the produce will be a huge breakthrough in an industry that has been dependent on the challenges of seasonal labor.”

Abundant Robotics’ initial prototype is designed with technology from SRI to enable automation of apple harvesting. Future development may address other produce and steps in the production process.

Manish Kothari, PhD, president of SRI Ventures at SRI International, says: “Bringing automation to orchard agriculture is an important step in addressing nutritional demands and making high-quality fruit available to a growing population. SRI is proud to be a part of this major agtech breakthrough.”

Abundant Robotics co-founders Curt Salisbury, Michael Eriksen, and Dan Steere share early backgrounds in agriculture. Recognizing the opportunity for farming innovation they joined together while at SRI to apply leading-edge robotics expertise to agricultural production.

Salisbury was a leader in SRI’s robotics group and Eriksen, a software architect, was a key collaborator. Steere initially served as an entrepreneur in residence at SRI Ventures, advising Abundant Robotics before leading the venture full-time.

Backed by research funding from the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission and SRI, Abundant Robotics has closed its initial investment round.


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