Israel-based MetoMotion announced today it has raised a $1.5 million seed round for its multipurpose robotics system called GRoW (Greenhouse Robotics Worker) (via AgFunder).
There aren’t a lot of details on specifics of the funding round. According to AgFunder, the team behind GRoW has only said that “a leading Netherlands-based company in the greenhouse industry” led the round. This brings MetoMotion’s total funding to date to $2.7 million.
Even if GRoW’s investors are mysterious, its overall purpose in making indoor agriculture more efficient is obvious. According to the MetoMotion site, GRoW is a robotic worker that can perform labor-intensive tasks in the greenhouse, like harvesting. The fully automated vehicle uses a combination of 3D vision systems and machine vision algorithms to identify and locate produce that’s ready for picking (its first crop is greenhouse tomatoes). Custom-designed robotic arms then pick the produce, and a proprietary harvesting end-effector protects against damage to fruits during the harvesting process.
The vehicle is also capable of a number of other functions, like pruning, monitoring, and even pollinating crops. According to the MetoMotion website, GRoW can save up to 50 percent in harvest-related costs.
Expectations around the promise of indoor farming are ramping up right now as farmers, governments, and industries alike are looking at alternative methods to supplement traditional agriculture. At the same time, there’s a major shortage of skilled labor for greenhouses. Therefore it’s not surprising that MetoMotion has some friendly competition in the greenhouse robotics space. A company called iUnu makes Luna, a robot that uses cameras, sensors, and computer vision to scoot about the greenhouse and monitor crop welfare. Cambridge Consultants, meanwhile, has a robot called Hank that uses a sensory system embedded into pneumatic fingers to mimic human hands, which makes it ideal for harvesting delicate fruits and veggies.
Since details of MetoMotion’s seed round are scant, we’re not yet sure what the company will put the money towards, or when we can expect to see GRoW distributed. Israel-based Trendlines, MetoMotion’s parent company, says a fully functional version of GRoW has been successfully alpha tested in a greenhouse setting.