Agriculture is poised to be one of the next great robotics categories. Everyone needs to eat, and much of what we eat in this part of the world comes from large farms. Farm work is tough on the body and requires long hours in sometimes extreme environments. It can also be difficult to hire and retain staff in a category that frequently relies on migrant workers.
We’ve seen a number of startups attempt to automate field work over the past decade. It can be a difficult space to find a foothold, and a number of those startups have ultimately ended up selling to tractor giant John Deere, which seems intent on completely owning the category.
For the most part, young companies that do venture out in the field start with a single focus, like, say, weeding or apple picking. Founded right at the beginning of the pandemic, Bay Area-based Farm-ng has cast a far wider net. The company’s first system, Amiga, is modular, allowing it to be deployed for a broad range of tasks. The company says it hit on the concept of modularity while working with farmers in the Pajaro Valley and Salinas Valley in California’s vast central coast.
“This naturally led to a modular system, like Legos for our farm customers, that let them build their own solutions at an extremely low cost,” Nvidia vet and newly minted CTO Claire Delaunay tells TechCrunch. “We strive to make our technology accessible to a farmer, be it mechanically easy to adapt, maintain or extend the software to suit their needs […] Having a modular approach is not new in the ag space. Tractors are very modular, and there is a large set of distributors and integrators able to customize your tractor for a type of crop and practices, and the specifics of your tools.”
This morning, Farm-ng is announcing a $10 million Series A. The round, led by Acre Venture Partners, follows last March’s seed round. The startup has deployed around 100 Amiga units in less than 18 months. Some of the new funding will go toward ramping up production in the company’s Watsonville (in the aforementioned Pajaro Valley) manufacturing plant.
Farm-ng is promising a quick ROI for the systems being deployed in the field.
“The integration of Amigas in farming operations has led to significant time and cost efficiencies for our customers,” says Delaunay. “In one customer study we’ve seen the Amiga cut down weekly labor time in a variety of use cases including seeding, weeding and compost spreading. In this study we saw the number of weekly labor hours reduced by 50% – 80%. […] More concrete data is anticipated after one to two growing seasons, but anecdotally our customers have been excited about the opportunities a more streamlined operation provides them.”