Tevel Aerobotics Technologies, which develops flying fruit-picking robots that provide autonomous on-demand harvest, announced this week it has raised $20 million for its technology. Investors in this round include venture capital firms Maverick Ventures Israel, OurCrowd, AgFunder, as well as Asian agriculture equipment producers Kubota and Forbon. This brings the company’s total funding to $33.9 million, which includes a $2.5 million grant from the Israel Innovation Authority (news from AgFunder News).
Tevel, based in Tel-Aviv, Israel, has developed a patented platform called FAR (Flying Autonomous Robots) that is a combination of the actual flying robots, algorithms, AI, and data analytics. The flying robots are equipped with computer vision and AI that detects fruit and foliage, and identifies the type of fruit, size, and ripeness. Attached to the drone is a three-foot-long claw for grabbing and picking the fruit. Additionally, the small drones are capable of other tasks like pruning, trimming, and thinning of orchard trees.
Fruit picking is very dependent on the available labor force, which has been consistently declining throughout the world in the past few years, causing labor shortages in orchards. On top of this, even though agriculture workers are considered essential personnel, the pandemic has caused delays for laborers seeking visas to pick fruit in other countries. Tevel aims to provide a solution to this issue through its platform, which will also allow fruit farmers to use its services exactly when needed to fill unmet labor needs on an on-demand basis.
Tevel is the first flying produce picking robot we’ve covered at The Spoon; however, there are plenty of other agriculture companies using robots on the ground to reduce labor costs and increase efficiency during harvest. Root AI raised $7.2 million last summer for its tomato and strawberry harvesting robots. Companies such as Greenfield Robotics, Small Robot Company, and FarmWise use AI-powered robots to remove weeds from crop fields. My colleague Jenn Marston predicts that we will see more automation in agriculture in 2021, which will include more robots and software technologies that create the optimal environment for particular crops.
Tevel’s new funding will be used to continue the production of its technology and launch its commercial services for orchards. The service is not commercially available for farms yet but the company says it will be conducting pilots of its platform this year in Spain, Italy, and the US. Tevel is also accepting additional equity crowdfunded investments directly and through the investment platform OurCrowd.