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Augean Robotics raises $1.5 million to commercialize farm robot

Funding to accelerate development of robot-enabled solutions to agricultural industry labor challenges, says the company

Augean Robotics, a Philadelphia-based startup developing a collaborative robotic platform for the agriculture industry, says it has raised $1.5 million in its seed funding round.

The round was led by ffVC, with participation from S2G Ventures, Radicle Growth, and several others. As part of the round, Adam J. Plotkin from ffVC and Kirk Haney from Radicle Growth joined Augean’s board.

Augean says it provides robot-enabled solutions to the agriculture industry, addressing the significant labor challenges faced by today’s growers–chief among them rising wages and a shrinking workforce. 

By leveraging collaborative, data-acquisitive robots that work alongside human workers to increase productivity by up to 30 percent, farmers can lay the foundation for expansive, high-value autonomy, according to Augean.

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Charlie Andersen, CEO and founder, Augean Robotics, says: “84 percent of the US crop workforce tends to largely non-mechanized fruit, vegetable, and nursery production, but rising wages and a shrinking workforce are driving growers of these specialty crops to turn to robots to reduce labor needs and costs.

“We are thrilled to have this investor support, which will allow us to accelerate the commercialization of Burro and to develop the proprietary datasets needed to enable further autonomy.”

With the team’s deep experience in robotics, autonomy, and machinery, it developed Burro, an autonomous platform that uses computer vision and AI to navigate farms.

Some of the world’s largest growers of labor-intensive crops are using Augean’s robots-as-a-service today, and the company is targeting widespread commercial availability by the end of 2019.

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Adam Plotkin, partner at ff Venture Capital, says: “We really like companies in the autonomous and robotics sector that are built on an innovative tech stack that can be used to solve specific vertical, valuable and mission-critical business problems right now.

“Augean Robotics, by addressing the acute labor problems facing growers, fits closely within our thesis, and we are looking forward to working together.”

In October, Western Grower’s Association and S2G Ventures named Augean Robotics the winner of its annual AgSharks Competition, which was accompanied by a $250,000 investment and access to farm acreage for pilot testing to bring Burro to market.

Today, growers of crops like table grapes, blueberries, cherry tomatoes, nursery plants, and other hand-harvested crops are using Burros as virtual conveyor belts, automating in-field transport and enabling workers to focus on high-value tasks.

In addition to winning the AgSharks competition, Augean has been named Judge’s Choice Winner at the Start-Up Competition at the 2018 Farmer2Farmer event, a 2019 “Startup to Watch” by The Robot Report and was shortlisted as one of the most innovative pre-Series A startups in the US in Farm Tech by AgFunder News.