Start-up of automation management in agriculture SwarmFarm robotics raised $12 million in a Series A to address agricultural labor shortages.
The round was led by Canadian agtech fund Emmertech, from Conexus Venture Capital, backed by Brisbane VC Tribe Global Ventures and Access Capital of South Australia. Existing investors Tenacious Ventures and GrainInnovate, the VC fund of the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), also contributed.
SwarmFarm was founded in 2015 near Emerald, Queensland, by Andrew and Joice Bate, to produce intelligent agricultural robotics using what is known as integrated autonomy to save farmers time, resources, cost and energy.
The company plans to use the money to expand internationally and add teams to its offices in NSW and Queensland.
Andrew Bate, the startup’s CEO, said the SwarmBot platform and operating system network, SwarmConnect, is a new approach to on-farm autonomy designed to unlock the potential of driverless technology through an open platform for developers to create new applications for. farmers can create.
Think of it as the robotics marketplace for other agtech startups, also connecting them to build more autonomy.
“There is a huge demand for autonomy in agriculture, but today most solutions unlock minimal potential,” said Bate.
“Today’s equipment suppliers believe that farmers simply want to be plucked from the cab or replaced by robotic arms. We believe that farmers want more. They want a technology ecosystem built to address the issues in their environment, a farm-centric system that leaves the smallest possible footprint on their fields, enabling them to do more with less. They want integrated autonomy, so that’s what we’re building.”
Bate said that while there is no shortage of driverless tractors and niche agricultural robotics solutions, they operate in their own silos and create new levels of work and supervision for farmers.
“We believe there is a third category of autonomy that combines the robot and the application within a development framework that allows farmers to adapt their equipment to their needs and allows developers to bring their innovations to life much faster,” he said.
“It’s the best of both worlds. We provide customized autonomy in a box for the farmer. For the developer, we offer a streamlined path to the grower with a tight feedback loop.”
The idea originated on his family farm in response to his own concerns about chemical overuse and the need to purchase larger procurement equipment to achieve economies of scale
“We’ve reached a point where we just said enough is enough,” Bate said.
“We saw our input costs increase, our equipment costs increase as we bought larger equipment, our dependence on pesticides increased, and our revenues nevertheless decreased. There was a day when we sat down and realized this wasn’t an equation that needed incremental change; we needed a whole new farming system – and SwarmFarm was the solution.”
SwarmFarm’s platforms are now in use on 5.3 million acres of commercial land, over 64,000 operating hours. As a result, imports of pesticides delivered via autonomous robots have fallen by an estimated 780 tons.
The future of agriculture
Sean O’Connor, MD of Emmertech, said the SwarmFarm team is pioneering the future of autonomous farming.
“The main trait that drove our eagerness to lead this round was the farmer-centric approach this team is built around and the truly exceptional results their robots have achieved,” he said.
“We met several farmers who spent more than 3,000 hours a year on their SwarmBot, often leaving them in the field for more than 24 hours at a time. We believe there is a future where SwarmBots can be found on farms in North America and worldwide.”
GRDC head of business development Fernando Felquer said: “What makes SwarmFarm so appealing to us is that the founders are Australian grain farmers who are developing autonomous solutions from the ground up with Australian farming systems in mind, and the technology has global application.”
Bate said his focus is on facilitating collaboration between farmers and technologists.
“We envision a future where the most promising minds in technology are encouraged to focus on solving the challenges facing modern agriculture,” he said.
“The future of agriculture is happening now, but there’s no way one company can really invent everything it takes to revolutionize agriculture. We need the brightest minds from all over the world to work on this.
“We need an army of developers who solve the problems of agriculture app by app. So join us as a partner and help create the revolution agriculture needs.”
More on SwarmFarm here.