A French agricultural robot company has raised €3 million ($2.7 million) in seed capital in its first venture capital round. Naïo Technologies manufactures agribots for vegetable farms to help with weeding.
French agriculture venture capital firm CapAgro participated in the round alongside clean tech and mobility tech VC Emertec, and crowdfunding platform WiSeed, which contributed $400k of the raise, Gaëtan Séverac, Naïo Technologies COO and co-founder, told AgFunderNews.
The company, which currently has 30 weeding robots on small farms of up to 10 hectares in France, plans to use the proceeds to expand into parts of Northern Europe such as Denmark, Germany and Sweden, said Séverac.
Naïo Technologies will also use the proceeds for the further research and development of two new robots: a hoeing robot for open field vegetable farms of over 10 hectares — a market of 30,000 vegetable farmers in France; and a vineyard robot, which will be able to weed five hectares a day.
Naïo robots use laser and camera guidance to move autonomously between rows and can recognize different types of plants to identify weeds.
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The company first started marketing its robots in 2015 and plans to double its sales in 2016. It received the 2015 Mechatronics Award for the most promising start-up, as well as the Special Jury Award at the French Collaborative Robotics Contest 2015 and, recently, the CleanTech Republic Award during the COP21 climate change conference in Paris, according to a statement.
Naïo is the second robotics startup to raise funding in as many weeks; Blue River Technology, the manufacturer of machine learning robotic units which are attached to tractors, raised $17 million in Series B funding from a range of high-profile venture capital firms: Pontifax Global Food and Agriculture Technology Fund, Syngenta Ventures, Monsanto Growth Ventures, Khosla Ventures, Data Collective Venture Capital, and Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors.
Blue River robots also perform weeding as well as spraying and thinning and have primarily targeted Californian lettuce farms so far with plans to expand into other vegetable crops.
Pontifax partner Philip Erlanger said of Blue River that it was refreshing to see a startup building machinery for execution in the field in contrast to the large number of data-driven applications for agriculture, which are popping up in the startup community.
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Image: Naio’s weeding robot