Advanced Farm Technologies (AFT), an agtech robotics startup, has raised a $7.5 million Series A round of funding led by Yamaha Motor Ventures & Laboratory Silicon Valley (“YMVSV”), the strategic business development and investment arm of Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd., with participation from Kubota Corporation, Catapult Ventures, and Impact Venture Capital. This brings the total amount raised by AFT to $9.2 million.
Based in Davis, CA, AFT creates robots as a service for farmers. It has developed the T-6 robotic strawberry harvester which operates on farms in the Oxnard, Santa Maria, and Salinas-Watsonville areas of California.
Agriculture is a hot area for robotics companies and automation. In addition to the fact that farms are facing a human labor shortage, farm work is hard work. It entails repetitive, manual labor often in hot conditions. Automating some of those tasks would help save people from getting heatstroke or dehydration after being out in the fields all day. Robots can also pave the way towards more efficient farming with precision application of water and pesticides.
Despite their potential benefits, robots haven’t had the best track record when it comes to picking strawberries. Even with the aid of computer vision, ripe berries can be hard to spot. They’re also fragile, so plucking them has to be done with the right amount of robotic care.
Perhaps this is why so many companies are tackling the problem. In addition to AFT, CROO Robotics, Traptic, and Agrobot are all working on robotic strawberry harvesters.
For its part, AFT says it will use the new funds to further expand its robotic strawberry harvesting program and “innovate in other areas.” If the company can nail robotic strawberry picking, that will indeed be pretty sweet.