Agtonomy, a hybrid autonomy and tele-assist service platform, has launched out of stealth and has announced a $4 million seed round from Grit Ventures, GV (formerly Google Ventures), and Village Global, the venture firm backed by some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs including Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Michael Dell.
The Agtonomy mission is to address the massive labor crisis gripping local farm and land maintenance operations. The executive team consists of veterans from the AI, EV, cloud service and agriculture industries, with extensive experience at tech companies like Apple, Microsoft, Google, Dell, Uber and Cruise, as well as lifelong farming experience at Northern California agriculture operations such as Trattore Farms.
By 2050, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization predicts that we will need to produce 60 percent more food on a smaller amount of land just to feed a growing global population of 9.3 billion.
At the same time, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics expects employment of agricultural workers to increase just 2 percent from 2020 to 2030, slower than the average for all other occupations.
The skilled labor crisis and the growing impact of climate change compound the challenges for farmers, and more broadly, land maintenance operations.
Local agriculture, as opposed to big agriculture, has been especially hit hard yet accounts for the vast majority of the good food movement which consumers demand today. Even though the number of local farmers outpaces those involved in big agriculture, few technology companies have addressed their challenges.
Tim Bucher, co-founder and CEO of Agtonomy, says: “While most technology is focused on big agriculture, Agtonomy is making autonomous equipment accessible to local agriculture growing high-value crops and providing a technology-enabled labor force to operate that equipment.
“By working with established original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), we can accelerate our sustainable technology platform to market and enable services that help alleviate the most critical issues facing local farmers and land maintenance operators today and into the foreseeable future: skilled labor shortage and climate change.”
Agtonomy is a hybrid autonomy and tele-assist service platform that turns tractors and other equipment into autonomous machines. A robust sensor suite and custom software stack enable remote modes of operation with extensive flexibility and safety features in comparison to conventional equipment.
Agtonomy, through its OEM partners, will address both local farming and broader land maintenance operations, including routine mowing and weeding as well as wildfire prevention through land clearing.
Jennifer Gill Roberts, Grit Ventures managing partner, says: “While trillions of dollars are being spent on developing autonomous passenger vehicles, core industries, such as agriculture, construction and manufacturing, are rapidly deploying robotics-as-a-service to augment human labor and increase both operational and energy efficiency.
“We believe Agtonomy’s focus on high value crop and land maintenance, innovative business model, clean energy approach, and deep agriculture domain knowledge will give them a significant competitive advantage.”
By partnering with some of the most trusted names in equipment, Agtonomy will deliver immediate value to local farmers who must make continuous improvements, weather labor shortages and reduce field-to-table timelines, all while working with tight budgets and seasonal challenges.
Complementing the existing talent at OEM partners with skill sets in key areas such as AI, machine learning, EV technology, sensor fusion and autonomous software and services, Agtonomy helps these global original equipment manufacturers expand their existing market segments and open new markets while providing local farmers and land maintenance professionals the tools they need to thrive in the challenging environment they face today.
Andy Wheeler, general partner at GV, says: “Creating greater autonomy for local farmers is key to moving the agricultural industry forward, and Agtonomy is uniquely qualified to address this challenge in a meaningful way.
“The Agtonomy team includes seasoned farmers with deep technology roots, and they have the right combination of skills and experience to bring more value to the farming community at-large.”
Agtonomy takes a differentiated approach in both their technology stack and their go-to-market strategy through partners. As a B2B company, Agtonomy focuses on the technology pieces of its solution that work with existing equipment and leaves the significant task of manufacturing and distribution to the experts who have been doing it for decades.
Anne Dwane, co-founder and partner at Village Global, says: “We invest in promising entrepreneurs and startups across all geographies and sectors. Agtonomy has set its sights on improving local agriculture and production, which is what consumers want. They will help feed the world with good, high-quality, local food.”
With this round of funding, Agtonomy plans to expand its team to accelerate innovation in markets that desperately need more solutions that help close the labor shortage gap and operate more sustainably with increased safety.