Santa Monica-based Future Acres is a new startup developing sustainable agricultural robotics for the farm industry. Today, it announced that it has launched an equity crowdfunding campaign to raise up to $3 million in seed capital. The company aims to provide farmers with an accessible and affordable solution that not only optimizes the farming industry but builds new productivity into the food supply chain at the point of harvest.
The agriculture industry still relies primarily on humans to harvest specialty crops. Seasonal farmworkers have to handle produce with care while balancing harsh and dangerous working conditions. They often work with low and unreliable wages, lack access to health insurance and health services, and work in long shifts under extreme weather conditions.
To optimize workforce efficiency and safety, Future Acres has also announced its first agricultural robot, named Carry. Carry is an autonomous, electric agricultural robotic harvest companion to help farmers gather hand-picked crops faster and with less physical demand. It uses computer vision and machine learning to autonomously navigate a farm and can also be remotely operated. The robot can transport up to 500 pounds (227 kg) of crops on all terrain and in all weather conditions.
The robotic companion can increase production efficiency by up to 30%, paying for itself in only 80 days. It comes equipped with a 7-10 hours swappable battery range, or 6-10 miles (9-16 km) traversed terrain navigation on a single charge. The AI capabilities allow the robot to avoid obstacles like trees and people and collect and apply data to further enhance its precision.
Carry is designed to work alongside farmworkers. With multiple Carrys operating autonomously to transport crops from the field back to the farm, 5-10 workers can stay focused on quality, careful sourcing without needing to go back and forth for miles.
“The agricultural industry is facing a seemingly never-ending list of challenges on a financial, worker, and sustainability level,” said Suma Reddy, CEO of Future Acres. “Our vision with Carry was to develop a tool and system that could help alleviate these stressors and move the industry forward by providing a helpful operational solution capable of supporting workers by reducing the physical toll – back pain, twisted ankles, and shoulder inquire no longer need to be the normal. Carry is the future of harvesting and will make an immediate impact on the lives of those in the field each and every day, all while reducing costs and helping farmers to stay profitable.“
The focus on agricultural robotics has only increased during the pandemic, amid health concerns and labor issues. We have also informed you about an autonomous fruit-picking robot developed by an Israeli company to combat the global shortage of seasonal fruit pickers.