Israel’s MetoMotion has revealed to AFN that it had secured $1.5 million in funding for its slightly zany answer to spotting ripeness in greenhouse-grown tomatoes: a luminous green multipurpose “Greenhouse Robotic Worker” (GRoW).
The team declines to say much publicly about its mysterious lead investor; the only words on the record are that “a leading Netherlands-based company in the greenhouse industry” led the round, which doesn’t really narrow it down considering the size of the industry there.
GRoW combines advanced 3D vision systems and machine vision algorithms to identify and locate the ripe fruit; then it coordinates multiple, custom-designed, robotic arms; lastly it has an end-effector for damage-free harvesting and an onboard boxing system. The autonomous vehicle is designed for seamless integration with existing greenhouse infrastructure. The company’s capabilities include adapting its robotic technology to other labor-intensive greenhouse tasks such as pruning, pollination, de-leafing and data collection for cultivation analysis.
The two man-management at MetoMotion, which is a portfolio company of The Trendlines Group out of Israel, has estimated that high tech greenhouses – located primarily in northern Europe – comprise roughly 10% of the total greenhouse market. Its company calculations claim that with one GRoW robot per hectare, the potential of its first target market could be more than $1 billion, with a return on investment of fewer than three years for the grower.
Neither is the success of an Israeli agritech company much of a surprise. MetoMotion is part of a long line of success stories emerging out of this small Middle Eastern nation. Earlier this year, AgFunder and Start–Up Nation Central published their Israel AgriFood Tech Investing Report 2014-2018. The report reveals $759 million of venture capital investments into Israel’s AgriFood tech sector over five years — an ecosystem that includes nearly 700 startup companies. A whopping tally for a country roughly the size of New Jersey.
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“With this funding,” MetoMotion CEO Adi Nir informs AFN, “We can bring our first product to the market.” He added that his robotic product — developed with his CTO Omer Nir — can “offer farmers a valuable solution to one of the most urgent issues they face in vegetable production today,” referring to skills and labor shortage. Labor, the team say, is also a substantial cost on the balance sheet of most greenhouse producers today.
Hey GRoW, Meet Hank
MetoMotion is, of course, far from the only company seeking to further automate the world’s greenhouses. One need only have spent a few minutes at this year’s GreenTech conference in Amsterdam to witness that. The MetoMotion raise comes, for instance, just a few weeks after British developers unveiled a super-sensitive robot with the claim that its almost human hand qualities allow it to pick delicate farm crops such as raspberries and strawberries. Called Hank, that new arrival comes from Cambridge Consultants, which is part of the international Engineering and R&D services group, Altran.
Check GRoW out below:
Image: from MetoMotion website.