Future Acres, a new startup developing a robotic platform for farms, announced today that it has launched an equity crowdfunding campaign that aims to raise $3 million.
The first product that Future Acres is building is Carry, a self-driving robot meant to, as the name suggests, carry crops around a farm. Carry uses GPS, computer vision and machine learning to autonomously navigate a farm (it can also be tele-operated), and can lug 500 lbs. of crops across all types of terrain and inclement weather. The electric robot has a 7 -- 10 hour battery life and can travel 6 -- 10 miles on a full charge.
If this sounds familiar, that’s because Carry is similar to Augean Robotics’ Burro, which also autonomously hauls up to 500 lbs of food and gear around the farm.
Future Acres is also looking beyond the simple act of carrying things and towards developing a true autonomous platform that can be used to perform other tasks around the farm like precision spraying, disease detection and, eventually, crop picking.
Farms in the U.S. face labor shortages caused by factors such as COVID restricting the movement of migrant labor and a patchwork of differing state and federal labor laws. Even if a farm is able to secure all of the workers it needs, that work is still hard and done under harsh conditions like extreme heat.
This is where farm automation can help. By automating some of the less skilled work involved with harvesting, such as carrying bushels around, human workers can focus on more delicate tasks such as picking, or coordinating logistical processes.
Right now, Future Acres has one prototype currently being tested. With the new funding it raises, the company will focus on developing the next version of Carry. Future Acres CEO, Suma Reddy, told me by phone last week that the company will work with farms to figure out what business model(s) work best, but right now, the Carry system costs between $800 and $1,200 a month for the hardware and software.