Augean Robotics, creators of the “Burro” robot that hauls stuff around farms, announced earlier this week that it had raised $1.5 million seed round. The round was led by ffVC, with participation from S2G Ventures, Radicle Growth, and several others.
The Burro is a squat, rugged, flatbed robot that can autonomously carry 500 pounds of gear or food (or whatever) around working farms. The three levels of autonomy built into Burro allow it to either follow a human around, automatically recognize rows of crops and travel up and down them , or act as a virtual conveyor belt learning and following a path to take materials back and forth (like harvested grapes from pickers to packers).
Augean is on its fifth generation Burro and Augean CEO, Charlie Andersen told me earlier this year that it is currently in trials with four of the nation’s largest growers.
We often cover how the rise of robots and automation will bring with it a cost in human jobs, but the agriculture sector is already facing a human labor shortage, and farm work itself is hard work. Robots can actually be a big help to agriculture, as Andersen explained during our Spoon Slack Chat last month:
Robots can carry out some tasks more safely than a human could. For instance, the Augean Burro can carry 150-plus pounds of grapes for hours in 110 degree weather without getting heat stroke or dehydrated. But in addition to labor changes, robots can also push farms towards more organic production because [robots] can also reduce the amount of chemicals needed and the overall environmental intensity needed for fruit and vegetable production.
Ultimately, Andersen said that the Burro is a platform that can be adapted to more than just carrying things. Augean has raised $1.8 million to date and according to the press announcement, plans to use the new funds to “accelerate the commercialization of Burro and to develop the proprietary datasets needed to enable further autonomy.”
This further autonomy, Andersen told me during our conversation, is expanding the Burro’s capabilities to targeting weed spraying, yield mapping, as well as picking and pruning.
If you’re interested in the future of robots in the food chain, you should definitely come to our ArticulATE summit on April 16 in San Francisco. We’ll be discussing robot autonomy, human/robot relations and much much more. Get your ticket today!