A behemoth of a worker, recently recognized by a national publication, that can meticulously and precisely remove weeds growing between sprouting crops is being employed on farms in California and Arizona. Time magazine recently placed the FarmWise Titan FT-35 on its list of Best Inventions of 2020. It is an automated mechanical weeder that can help substitute the pass of a hand-weeding crew, which usually has 10 to 15 people. FarmWise has its operations headquarters, or home base for its team and machines, in Salinas and an office in San Francisco that houses most of its engineers. The company works with farming operations in the Salinas Valley such as Dole and Braga Fresh, plus dozens of other customers.
Agriculture company Wilbur Ellis, Xplorer Capital, and Alumni Ventures Group also joined the round. This round of funding will be used to grow the company's robotic engineering and operation teams as well as boost R&D efforts on plant-level detection and actuation capabilities. "Each day, one FarmWise robot can weed crops to feed a medium-sized city of approximately 400,000 inhabitants. We are now enhancing the scale and depth of our proprietary plant-detection technology to help growers with more of their processes and on more of their crops. Looking ahead, our robots will increasingly act as specialized doctors for crops, monitoring individual health and adjusting targeted interventions according to a crop's individual needs," said FarmWise co-founder and CEO Sébastien Boyer.
Automating agriculture is a complex proposition given the number and variety of tasks involved, but a number of robotics and autonomy companies are giving it their best shot. FarmWise seems to have impressed someone -- it just raised $14.5 million to continue development of its autonomous weeding vehicle. Currently in the prototype stage, these vehicles look like giant lumbering personnel carriers or the like, but are in fact precision instruments which scan the ground for invasive weeds among the crop and carefully pluck them out. "Each day, one FarmWise robot can weed crops to feed a medium-sized city of approximately 400,000 inhabitants," said FarmWise CEO Sebastien Boyer in a press release announcing the latest funding round. "We are now enhancing the scale and depth of our proprietary plant-detection technology to help growers with more of their processes and on more of their crops."
Silicon Valley startup FarmWise Labs announced today that it is teaming up with Michigan-based manufacturing and automotive company Roush to create autonomous vegetable weeders. The companies will work together over the course of the year to create prototypes for self-driving robots that will be able to navigate across crops. If all goes well, they will start to scale up with additional units in 2020. The weeding robots could prove to be a major help for Michigan farmers. The autonomous vehicles will be designed to perform high-precision weeding and thinning and will be able to operate around the clock, saving farmers from having to perform the time-sucking tasks.
Self-driving vehicles would not be possible without sensors and so it's not surprising to see two small new sensors in the 2020 Silicon Valley Robotics'Good Robot' Innovation Awards, the Velabit from Velodyne and the nanoScan3 from SICK. Our other Innovation Awards go to companies with groundbreakingly new robots; from the tensegrity structure of Squishy Robotics, which will help in both space exploration and disaster response on earth, to the Dusty Robotics full scale FieldPrinter for the construction industry, and Titan from FarmWise for agriculture, which was also named one of Time's Best Inventions for 2020. Finally, we're delighted to see innovation in robotics that is affordable and collaborative enough for home robot applications, with Stretch from Hello Robot and Eve from Halodi Robotics. The Velabit, a game-changing lidar sensor, leverages Velodyne's innovative lidar technology and manufacturing partnerships for cost optimization and high-volume production, to make high-quality 3D lidar sensors readily accessible to everyone. The Velabit is smaller than a deck of playing cards, and it shatters the price barrier, costing $100.00 per sensor.