Funding for field robotics

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Agerris set to commercialise automated robotic platforms

Professor Salah Sukkarieh
Professor Salah Sukkarieh

Agerris, a field robotics start-up based on technology created by the University of Sydney’s Australian Centre for Field Robotics, has received $6.5 million to commercialise robotics platforms, intelligent automated tools and artificial intelligence (AI), designed to improve agricultural productivity and environmental sustainability.

The $6.5 million raising is one of the largest seed investment rounds in agricultural technology in Australia and will be used to formally launch Agerris and roll-out its platforms and data analytic tools to local and international markets. The investment was coordinated by Australia’s longest running research commercialisation fund, Uniseed, alongside leading venture capital firms Carthona Capital and BridgeLane Group.

Agerris, headed by Professor Salah Sukkarieh, is a field robotics company which originated from technology developed at the Australian Centre for Field Robotics at the University of Sydney.

Its focus is to bring to all growers the latest in air and ground field robotic systems with intelligent tools and AI solutions, aimed at supporting their on-farm activities, improve farm productivity, and to support animal welfare and environmental sustainability.

The first platform, Swagbot, is an electric ground vehicle to be used across a broad range of agriculture commodities, focusing on large-scale row and tree cropping applications as well as grazing livestock. With its on-board AI and intelligent tools, it can identify and eradicate weeds, monitor pasture as well as row and tree crops and will soon have animal welfare and monitoring functionality, including the ability to herd cattle. Digital Farmhand is the second durable low-cost autonomous robotic platform that automates on-farm tasks, such as non-chemical weed removal, intelligent crop spraying and yield estimation. It has been designed to assist small-holder farmers in the row and tree crop sectors, including those in developing nations.

Agerris will initially trial and develop the systems locally in Australia and will then pursue global market opportunities. It is targeting a commercial offering for the domestic market to be available within the next year.

The need for increased productivity in agriculture and farming is increasing rapidly as population growth along with rising incomes in developing countries drive up global food demand, with forecasts that demand will increase between 59 per cent and 98 per cent by 2050.

"Growers worldwide are being impacted by weed resistance, climate change, low labour availability, high labour costs and the growing awareness for the need to use less chemicals and less energy. Furthermore, growers will need to increase production though enhancing agricultural productivity, however many often struggle to afford the best customised advice for their farm, leading to sub-optimal yields and efficiencies from their crops. Livestock farmers also face animal welfare concerns," says Sukkarieh.

"Our platforms help to mitigate these challenges and help increase productivity and environmental sustainability by giving farmers smart precision automated farming approaches, made possible through our advances in robotics, sensor technology, mapping tools and AI."

Uniseed Investment Manager, Anthony Musumeci adds: "Agerris has developed groundbreaking technology that not only addresses the growing need for increased agricultural productivity but promises to radically transform the farming process and make Australia a world-leader in intelligent farm systems."

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