here is something for that Thinking about this beautiful Thursday morning: does Agtech Robotics need a reboot? Of course, we’re dealing with a small sample here, but a series of news stories over the last year made me wonder why this category hasn’t shown very strong potential so far.
Last mile warehousing and shipping are the real stars of success during the pandemic, and it’s understandable. But given a long-term labor shortage and an aging farming population (the median age is ~58 in the US and about a decade higher in Japan), this is a huge opportunity for growth.
Of course, there are many variables. The degree of effective autonomy in a neighborhood is clearly less than on a busy city street. But there are other factors to deal with, such as computer vision and machine learning, from identifying weeds to learning how to pick vulnerable crops like berries. There is also the issue of monetization and how interested farmers are in adopting these new technologies.
This is exactly what I had in mind after Zoox acquired Strio.AI. I will be very honest and confess that I have not been familiar with this week’s news since then. In my defense, I will say that the company was young, it was founded in 2020. Despite manufacturing during the pandemic—or maybe because of it—we were able to quickly roll out our first prototype of the device and test it on farms for six months.
But this acquisition effectively marks the end of Strio as a company. This was the hiring of several employees (including the co-founder and CEO) who were supposed to be part of the Robotaxi team. However, they will remain in Boston as Zoox opens a research space at this robotics research center. However, the strawberry picking startup’s ambitions are being successfully realized.
This, of course, reflects the recent triptych news. The startup is removing its strawberry-picking robot from farms in a bid to integrate the technology into Bowery’s vertical farms. In this case, the new owner will in any case include agricultural technologies directly in the (albeit radically different) environment of agricultural technologies.
In addition, there are companies such as Blue River Technologies and Bare Flag Robotics that were acquired by John Deere. This further cements the old tractor manufacturer’s position at the top of Agtec Spear. In addition to selling tools to farmers for nearly 200 years, John Deere has become a hard-to-beat company. So why not just join them.
I think it really gets to the point. Starting a startup is hard. This is three times more for a robotics company. In many cases, absorption is a completely justified or favorable outcome. It’s hard to selfishly watch a promising young company flee the market. But can you blame them? I definitely can’t. If Amazon, John Deere, or someone else suddenly knocked on your door with loads of money and the ability to keep going with more resources, would you say no? Especially what recently happened to a promising company like Abundant, which was once the darling of Agtech Robotics.
As I mentioned last week, I recently spoke with Jonathan Hirst, co-founder and CTO of Agility Robotics, and Bruce Leak, founding partner of Playground Global. Among other things, he gave some insight into what the state of flexibility feels like when it attracts the attention of a venture fund that is willing to invest time and energy in developing and finding its market. This is certainly not something anyone could expect to participate in.
We were scouring the internet like any good venture capital group and found a video released by Agility. We were very impressed. This product was, on some level, an incredible pair of legs. But he could walk for hours and run on uneven terrain, which was very practical. When we saw something that seemed impossible to us, we knew we had to meet with the Agility team.
What is the solution? Obviously, the ideal would be to get more funding into space and be prepared to give Agtech Robotics enough runway space. Really aggressive government funding would be a great way to take over the space and take control of the American food supply. Either way, I’ll take a look at this place. He is ripe for picking strawberries if the right robotic arm comes alone.
To find its market, Turtle has some exciting news that is moving from the sizzling last mile delivery category to the sizzling world of offline retail. Here it basically means attaching a “mobile store” to the back of the turtle robots. A good quote from co-founder Dmitry Shevlenko on how to turn around in time and not look back:
You must know what hypergrowth tastes like, and you must have the delicacy to know what the fake version of it tastes like. It’s hard and painful to do these loops, and you look like an idiot six months ago when you told the world that the last mile is the next big step, and now you say something else, but it’s better to bear this burden again. Keep doing the same thing and expect a different result.
In the meantime, Nvidia wants you to know that it’s still investing in that last mile. The component giant just invested $10 million in Serv Robotics, an offshoot of Uber that makes robots that look like minions (tell me I’m wrong).
“We see ourselves as a company moving forward with autonomy and bringing true autonomous robots into the real world,” said Ali Kashani, CEO of Serv. “Nvidia is one of the most important companies in robotics overall and they are also investing in tools so it makes sense for us to work closely together as this is room to grow.”
Gecko Robotics has raised a whopping $73 million this week. Tell us about places that are in dire need of government funding. It’s hard to ignore the fact that a bridge collapsed in Pittsburgh, the startup’s hometown, on the very day the president arrived to discuss infrastructure funding. Gecko’s patented technology is specifically designed to monitor industrial structures in categories such as oil and gas, energy, manufacturing and defense.
The GE Pipe-Worm (Programmable Worm for Irregular Pipeline Exploration) robot also made its debut on the defense side. In particular, the project grew out of the DARPA Underminer program as a way to develop tunneling technology for the military. Today, he has a new feature – and a set of cockroach-like whiskers that provide haptic feedback to help him navigate pipes and tunnels. The robot has fluid-driven muscles that provide enough power to scrape away body fat or fat deposits.
The robot is actually leaning towards the “dirty” part of the three D robots.
Stupid? never! Filthy? Not necessary! Dangerous? There is only one way to find out: register with Actuators.