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Funding

Agtech robotics management platform SwarmFarm plants $12 million Series A

- February 15, 2023 3 MIN READ
SwarmFarm founders Andrew & Jocie Bate
Farming automation management startup SwarmFarm Robotics has raised $12 million in a Series A to address agriculture’s worker shortage.

The round was led by Canadian agtech fund Emmertech, from Conexus Venture Capital, supported by Brisbane VC Tribe Global Ventures and South Australia’s Access Capital. Existing investors Tenacious Ventures and GrainInnovate, the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) VC fund, also chipped in one more.

SwarmFarm was founded near Emerald, Queensland, in 2015 by Andrew and Joice Bate, to produce intelligent robotics for agriculture using what’s known as integrated autonomy to save farmers time, resources, costs and energy.

The company is looking to expand internationally with the funds, as well as adding to teams at its NSW and Queensland offices.

Andrew Bate, the startup’s CEO, said that the SwarmBot platform and operating system network, SwarmConnect, is a new approach to on-farm autonomy designed to unlocks the potential of driverless technology via an open platform where developers to create new applications for farmers.

Think of it as the robotics marketplace for other agtech startups, which also connects them to build better autonomy.

“There is enormous demand for autonomy in agriculture, but today, most solutions unlock minimal potential,” Bate said.

“The current equipment providers believe that farmers just 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 locality, a farm-centric system that leaves the lowest possible footprint on their fields, helping them do more with less. They want integrated autonomy, so that’s what we’re building.”

Bate said that while there’s no shortage of driverless tractors and niche agriculture robotics solutions, they operate in their own silos creating new levels of work and supervision for farmers.

“We believe that there is a third category of autonomy that combines the robot and the application within a development framework that will allow farmers to customize their equipment for their needs and allow developers to bring their innovations to life much more rapidly,” he said.

“It’s the best of both worlds. For the farmer, we provide customised autonomy in a box. For the developer, we provide a streamlined path to the grower with a tight feedback loop.”

The idea emerged on his family farm in response to his own concerns around excessive chemical use and the need to acquire larger acquiring equipment to deliver economies of scale

“We hit a point where we just said enough is enough,” Bate said.

“We saw our input costs increasing, our equipment costs rising as we bought larger equipment, our dependence on pesticides rising, and our yields declining despite it all. There was a day when we sat down and realised that this wasn’t an equation that needed incremental change; we needed an entirely new farming system – and SwarmFarm was the solution.”

SwarmFarm’s platforms are now used on 5.3 million hectares of commercial land, over 64,000 hours of operation. As a result, pesticide inputs delivered via autonomous robots have fallen by an estimated 780 tons.

The future of agriculture

Emmertech MD Sean O’Connor said the SwarmFarm team are pioneering the future of autonomous agriculture.

“The key 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 with several farmers who were putting upwards of 3,000 hours a year on their SwarmBot, often leaving them out in the fields for over 24 hours at a time. We believe there’s a future where SwarmBots can be found on farms across North America and worldwide.”

GRDC head of business development Fernando Felquer said: “What makes SwarmFarm so attractive to us is that the founders are Australian grain growers 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 turn toward solving the challenges faced by modern agriculture,” he said.

“The future of agriculture is happening now, but there is no way that one company can really invent everything needed to revolutionise agriculture. We need the smartest minds from around the world working on this.

“We need an army of developers solving agriculture’s problems one app at a time. So come join us as a partner and help deliver the revolution that agriculture needs.”

More on SwarmFarm here.

 

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