British robot farming startup buoyed by $4.8m overfunded Crowdcube campaign

Supermarket giant Waitrose and the National Trust are among SRC’s customers

Ben Wodecki, Jr. Editor

August 18, 2021

2 Min Read

Supermarket giant Waitrose and the National Trust are among SRC’s customers

Small Robot Company (SRC), a British firm developing autonomous farming robots, has smashed its $2.75m crowdfunding target.

The Hampshire-based startup’s Crowdcube campaign currently stands at around $4.8m – almost double what it was looking for, and still has over a week to go.

Small Robot’s PerPlant system uses lightweight robots that improve food production by planting, monitoring, and treating arable crops autonomously.

Alongside its now overfunded campaign, the company has received $1.65m in grants from the UK government.

I got a brand-new tiny robot, an' I'll give you the key

The company was formally launched in October 2017, with its attention being wheat crops.

The agri-tech firm says it wants to make farms “more profitable and increase yield and efficiency through using small robots instead of tractors.”

This isn’t its first Crowdcube round – having raised $2.8m on the platform last February, with over 1,700 investors providing financial backing.

The startup says it now was a waiting list of farmers – “with 20 paying a £5,000 ($6.8k) deposit, 17 investing £10k ($13.7k) or more and have received more than 100 expressions of interest.”

It also claims to be in “early-stage discussions” with three of the world’s largest seed and nutrient companies, with a view to deploying its PerPlant system to monitor their trial plots.

In April this year, SRC launched its first commercial robot dubbed ‘Tom’, a monitoring bot that scans arable crops to detect weeds.

A prototype weeding robot, named Dick, would then zap identified weeds with electrical ‘lightning strikes’, using no chemicals.

Customers of its Tom robot include the Lockerley Estate, where robots are a key part of its regenerative farming strategy, as well as supermarket giant Waitrose & Partners and the National Trust.

“Robotics can already take billions of accurate measurements in each field. This will transform the way that farms are able to sequester and cycle carbon, and measure that accurately, Sam Watson Jones, SRC’s president said upon launching Tom.

“The opportunity for the UK (and global) agriculture to support the transition towards Net Zero is enormous."

Its robots are manufactured by Tharsus, which also manufactures robots for online grocery seller Ocado for use in its warehouses – although the retailer's bots have been prone to catching fire on several occasions.  

SRC’s crowdfunding success comes after agricultural machinery giant John Deere signed a definitive agreement to acquire Bear Flag Robotics for $250m earlier this month.

Bear Flag is a Silicon Valley-based startup that develops autonomous driving technology John Deere says is compatible with many of its existing machines.

About the Author(s)

Ben Wodecki

Jr. Editor

Ben Wodecki is the Jr. Editor of AI Business, covering a wide range of AI content. Ben joined the team in March 2021 as assistant editor and was promoted to Jr. Editor. He has written for The New Statesman, Intellectual Property Magazine, and The Telegraph India, among others. He holds an MSc in Digital Journalism from Middlesex University.

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