For robotics to drown out the hype and become more mainstream in food, ag, and other industries, it needs to make “factories less dependent on expert suppliers and engineering departments,” consultancy McKinsey suggests in a recent research report.
That’s exactly what Singapore-based Augmentus is on a mission to do.
The ‘no-code’ robotics platform has just raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding from early-stage VC firm Cocoon Capital. It said it will use the funds to support a full commercial launch of its software, and to hire personnel to build out its software development, business development, and partnerships functions.
Augmentus has created a software platform that allows enterprises to setup and operate complex robotic systems “with high accuracy in a matter of minutes instead of weeks.”
Rather than having to write complicated code based on expensive proprietary programming languages, the startup’s clients can tell their robots what they want done by way of an intuitive, user-friendly graphical interface and computer-aided design files.
Augmentus claims it can complete the programming and integration of robotic systems up to 17 times faster than coding while also reducing industrial robotics’ longer term costs, 75% of which are “software-related.”
Founded in 2019, the startup has partnered with several of the world’s leading robot manufacturers — including ABB, Kuka, Mitsubishi Electric, Nachi, TM Robot, and Universal Robots — and it says its platform supports more than 60% of industrial robots on the market.
On the customer side, it now works with 15 companies, which are using its platform to program robots for a wide range of industrial processes. These include crop inspection and harvesting for indoor farming operations.
Co-founder and CEO Leong Yong Shin told AFN that agrifood businesses represent approximately 20% of the startup’s client base.
“Beyond an intuitive, ‘no-code’ robot programming interface, the Augmentus platform also possesses an integrated AI model builder that enables easy and rapid data annotation and AI training. This enables robots to identify and operate on fruits and vegetables in 3D without the need for intensive integration and development costs,” he said.
Meet four Singapore Food Bowl startups who want to revolutionize farming with tech – read more here
With relative ease, users in the indoor ag industry can “self-develop” AI to recognise different types of plants by “simply snapping photographs using an iPad,” Leong explained. The user can then link this AI with their on-farm robots to create applications for things like quality control or packing produce.
“Users have the power to develop and fine-tune automation catered to their unique needs and setups without heavy investment. As a result, instead of budgeting hundreds of thousands of dollars to hire or outsource AI and robot engineers, urban farms can focus on their core competencies in optimizing agricultural design and output,” he added.
Augmentus is now working on a “synthetic data pipeline for AI model creation” which will allow users to automatically generate thousands of photorealistic images under different conditions — such as variations in lighting, crop size and shape, positioning of fruit on plants — to assist in developing custom AIs. “We have successfully deployed this technology for the agriculture sector, and the feature will officially roll out in Q2 2022,” Leong said.
Will Klippgen, managing partner at Cocoon Capital, told AFN that his firm had been impressed by the Augmentus team’s traction and minimum viable product (MVP).
“[They’d] made enormous progress even before they raised any funding, both in their traction and how advanced their MVP was. Our team was also incredibly impressed by the founders’ complementary skillsets and how open they were to taking feedback,” he said.
“A major part of the decision [to invest] was that automation is one of the megatrends emerging from Covid-19. Augmentus is making it easier to program robots, unlocking tremendous value for enterprises and SMEs alike, worldwide.”