California’s Advanced Farm Technologies, the first U.S. company to commercialise robotic strawberry harvesting, has closed a US$25 million Series B funding round. The funds will be used to support the company’s growth in strawberry picking and the adaptation of its technology for use in apple picking.
Designed to work alongside manual harvest crews, the Advanced Farm TX Robotic Strawberry Harvester automatically senses and picks red, ripe fruit from in-soil strawberry beds with gentle, food-grade gripper technology.
The purpose-built machine consists of multiple, rugged robots able to withstand harsh outdoor environments and in-soil conditions. Sophisticated computer vision and machine learning technology enable the TX harvester to navigate fields and harvest fruit autonomously up to 24 hours a day.
Deploying its TX Robotic Strawberry Harvester fleet to work in fields in the major strawberry-producing centres of California, Advanced Farm has assisted the world’s leading strawberry growers, including GoodFarms, The Oppenheimer Group (Oppy), and Naturipe to bring tens of thousands of pounds of fresh fruit to market.
“We are fortunate to have the opportunity to work with the best in our industry and continue to be impressed by the practical, hands-on approach of Advanced Farm – a proven team that is building upon their past success to bring meaningful automation solutions to farming,” says Dave Murray, Partner at GoodFarms. “Automating our harvest with the Advanced Farm TX Robotic Strawberry Harvester helps us serve our customers, allowing us to better support our farmworkers, and expand operations to meet the consumer demand for high quality, affordable fresh fruit.”
The Series B funding round was led by Catapult Ventures and included all of the Series A investors: Kubota Corporation, Yamaha Motor Corporation, and Impact Ventures.
“The Advanced Farm team demonstrated tremendous discipline with the earlier fundraising, making US$10 million go a very long way in developing and commercialising its technology quickly and creating the foundation needed to go to market,” said Rouz Jazayeri, Managing Partner of Catapult Ventures. “With this latest investment round, the company can scale its team and robotic technology, with an eye toward expanding market share and adapting its technology for new crops, to deliver on the promise of automated harvesting for 21st-century farming.”
Kyle Cobb, President, and Co-Founder of Advanced Farm Technologies believes the company’s success to date is a team effort. “It is gratifying to have the ongoing support and commitment from our early investors in this funding round. It reflects all of our team’s hard work to develop and bring our TX Strawberry Harvester to the market” he said. “Our success is also a testament to our grower partners in strawberries and apples who work with us to find creative ways to introduce automation into their ranches today, while giving us the feedback we need to rapidly iterate and improve the tech.”
With more than US$70 million in customer commitments, Advanced Farm is working to innovate its technology through collaborative partnerships, including one with the U.C. Davis breeding program, to develop a full spectrum of automated solutions for in-field strawberry harvesting from picking to sorting and packing.