California-based startup Bonsai Robotics has secured $10.5 million in seed funding to further develop its vision-based autonomy technology for farm equipment. The company specializes in outfitting heavy farming machinery with advanced vision systems to address the labor shortage faced by the agricultural industry. The recent funding round, led by Acre Venture Partners, brings Bonsai’s total raised capital to $13.5 million.
Bonsai Robotics has secured
0.5 million in seed funding to further develop its vision-based autonomy technology for farm equipment. Their focus on nut trees aims to address the labor shortage faced by the industry. The first product, Shockwave X, by Orchard Machinery Corporation, effectively transforms traditional machinery into autonomous harvesters. Autonomous farm equipment offers numerous advantages, including increased operational efficiency and reduced safety risks compared to self-driving cars.
Focusing on Nut Trees
Bonsai Robotics initially focuses on nut trees, as nut farming has become a highly labor-intensive sector due to a lack of available workers. To tackle this issue, the startup has partnered with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to integrate its vision-based autonomy into farm equipment. The goal is to make the machinery capable of performing tasks autonomously, reducing the need for human intervention and increasing operational efficiency.
Founder and CEO Tyler Niday explains that robotics companies like Bonsai require significant capital in the early stages of their lifecycle to bring products to market. Unlike standard software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies, robotics firms have more complex product development and sales models. Insufficient capital investment has led to the failure of many robotics companies, which is why Bonsai aims to secure funding for its long-term success.
The Use Case: Shockwave X
The first product utilizing Bonsai’s vision-based autonomy technology is the Shockwave X, manufactured by Orchard Machinery Corporation (OMC). OMC, established in 1961, is a renowned producer of hydraulic tree shakers used in prune harvesting. By integrating Bonsai’s system, OMC’s Shockwave line of machinery transforms into autonomous harvesters.
Bonsai has been collecting data since its inception, enabling them to develop and test their autonomy system quickly. Niday expresses gratitude towards Trinitas Farming for providing an orchard where they could test and refine their technology. This collaboration allowed Bonsai to push the limits and ensure that the system performed to its utmost potential.
Benefits of Autonomy in Agriculture
Agriculture has proven to be a ripe industry for automation due to labor shortages and an aging population of farmers. Autonomous farm equipment helps alleviate these challenges. Unlike self-driving cars, agricultural machinery has fewer variables to consider and operates in less crowded environments, reducing the risk of accidents or injuries.
Bonsai Robotics has also begun demonstrations of their vision-based autonomy technology on tractors. Additionally, the company recently completed the production of the second ShockwaveX machine.