SwarmFarm Robotics announced it has raised a $12m AUD Series A ($8.3m) to develop and grow the Integrated Autonomy category in agriculture through the versatile SwarmBot platform and a breakthrough operating system network, SwarmConnect, that enables developers to create an array of innovative apps for users of the autonomous platform.
In addition, SwarmFarm also announced last year (2022) that SwarmBots had successfully been deployed to farmers who covered a total of over 1.3 million commercial acres, operated for 64,000 hours, and reduced pesticide inputs by an estimated 780 tons.
What is the market offering of SwarmFarm?
Born on the Bate’s family farm in rural Queensland, SwarmFarm exists to solve a complex problem set: how to grow better crops and the optimal amount of food on their land without putting down excessive amounts of chemicals or acquiring larger equipment. They have now successfully covered 1.3 million commercial acres, 64,000 hours of operation, and have reduced pesticide inputs by an estimated 780 tons with our autonomous robots.
“There is enormous demand for autonomy in agriculture, but today, most solutions unlock minimal potential. The current equipment providers believe that farmers just want to be plucked from the cab or replaced by robotic arms,” said SwarmFarm CEO Andrew Bate.
“We believe that farmers want more. They want a tech ecosystem that addresses issues in their locality, a farm-centric system that leaves the lowest possible footprint, helping them do more with less. They want Integrated Autonomy, so that’s what we’re building.”
Founded in 2015 near Emerald, Queensland, SwarmFarm is pioneering the and use of intelligent robotics in agriculture through Integrated Autonomy. This approach to autonomy on-farm provides more than a driverless system or niche robotics solution; Integrated Autonomy puts the farmer’s needs first and creates a tech ecosystem around them to save time, resources and energy while optimizing for profitable and sustainable growth.
“We hit a point where we just said enough is enough. 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 realized that this wasn’t an equation that needed incremental change; we needed an entirely new farming system – and SwarmFarm was the solution,” Bate further said.
The SwarmFarm team saw a future where developers could create effective and timely specialized tools that could be attached to swarms of small, nimble, autonomous robot platforms that create new farming practices through facilitating collaboration between farmers and technologists – laying the groundwork for the SwarmConnect product.
“While many companies are making driverless tractors and robotics solutions in agriculture, we believe that there is a third category of autonomy combining the robot and the app 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.”
“It’s the best of both worlds. For the farmer, we provide customized autonomy in a box. For the developer, we provide a streamlined path to the grower with a tight feedback loop.”
What are the investors’ thoughts on SwarmFarm?
The team at SwarmFarm defines Integrated Autonomy as a new approach to autonomy on-farm that unlocks the full potential of driverless tech by providing specialty robotics solutions with an open platform to develop on. The company’s Series A funding round was led by Emmertech, an AgTech fund from Conexus Venture Capital based in Canada.
The funding sees new investment from Tribe Global Ventures and Access Capital. The round is joined by SwarmFarm’s existing investors; Tenacious Ventures, and GrainInnovate, the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) venture capital fund by Artesian.
“We are thrilled to be joining Andrew, Jocie, and the whole SwarmFarm team as they pioneer the future of autonomous agriculture,” said Sean O’Connor, MD of Emmertech.
“The key trait that drove our eagerness to lead this round was the farmer-centric approach this team is built around and the exceptional results their robots have achieved. 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,” Sean said.
Commenting on SwarmFarm, Fernando Felquer, Head of Business Development at GRDC, said, “We are proud to support the team at SwarmFarm as they unlock the potential of Integrated Autonomy in agriculture. 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.”
Commenting on SwarmFarm, Sarah Nolet, Co-Founder & Managing Partner at Tenacious Ventures, said, “It is critical that we put tools into our farmers’ hands that help them do more with less. This is key to a climate resilient, profitable future for agriculture.”
“With their background in farming, the team at SwarmFarm has been able to see around some of the corners on the road to autonomy and anticipate the needs of the growers they serve. We look forward to continuing to work with them as they unlock more productivity and sustainability in agriculture through their unique approach to Integrated Autonomy.”
What does the funding mean for SwarmFarm?
“We envision a future where the most promising minds in technology are encouraged to turn toward solving the challenges faced by modern agriculture,” Bate continued.
“We also believe in a future where there is no longer such a severe distinction between farmers and technologists, but rather a new breed of farmer-technologists. This funding helps us to move toward that future by meeting more of the global demand for our product and facilitating the growth of our SwarmConnect network of developers,” Bate said.
Today, SwarmFarm serves customers across Australia and works with some of the most innovative farm equipment developers, including WEED-IT, Bilberry, Weedseeker, Hayes Spraying, Rasmussen Brothers Engineering, Goldacres, and Croplands.
SwarmFarm’s approach to autonomy resonates with its customers, thus consistent growth. The team will hire for roles in their Queensland and NSW offices to support this growth.
“The future of agriculture is happening, but there is no way that one company can really invent everything needed to revolutionize agriculture. We need the smartest minds working on this; We need an army of developers solving problems one app at a time. So come join us as a partner and help deliver the revolution that agriculture needs!” Bate commented.
Learn more about SwarmFarm here.