FarmWise: Sustainable Farming Powered by Robots
October 5, 2020 | Scott Murphy
Over the last decade, organic food has grown into a multi-billion dollar category and commanded a larger share of the overall food market, particularly organic produce. According to a report from the Organic Trade Association, sales of organic products hit $55.1 billion in 2019, with organic produce topping all categories at $18 billion. To keep pace with rising demand and increasing regulations, farmers globally are in need of eco-friendly processes for growing organic crops.
FarmWise, an Alumni Ventures Group portfolio company, provides farmers with a sustainable solution. The company is developing autonomous robots that perform a variety of farming functions, using machine learning models, computer vision, and high-precision mechanical tools.
Organic Farming at Scale
The goal of FarmWise’s robots is to help farmers facilitate organic farming at scale. The company‘s first product is a fully autonomous weeder that replaces herbicides, saves growers labor costs, and increases the yield of the crops by working day and night to remove unwanted plants and weeds.
FarmWise’s robots also collect plant-level data more granularly and precisely than what drones or satellites could ever achieve. This company is using this information to build a massive, proprietary database of plants and soils, allowing them to train their product to become better and provide better data to growers for a proactive approach to farming. The company intends to leverage this data and their fleet of robots to incrementally automate all cultivation tasks including soil tiling, planting, spraying, and fertilizing.
FarmWise is uniquely positioned in this market due to their focus on farming as-a-service instead of selling equipment, and the unique versatility of their crop agnostic system. This has allowed them to carve out a very large niche of the robotic farming market with high margins and little direct competition.
Leveraging Strong Alumni Connections
Alumni Ventures Group accessed a deal with FarmWise through Castor Ventures, a fund for MIT alumni and friends. Castor Partner, Cainon Coates having grown up on a farm himself had tracked the company’s progress closely for 2+ years, and in 2019, he reached out to Co-Founder and CEO Sébastien Boyer to discuss an allocation in the company’s next funding round. As fellow MIT alums, the Castor team had a natural connection with Boyer, who earned MS degrees in Computer Science and Technology & Policy from the Institute. AVG’s core funds frequently leverage alumni networks to access deals and build relationships with entrepreneurs and established VCs, providing a unique, robust deal pipeline for our investors.
Castor sponsored AVG’s participation in a $14.5 million Series A led by Calibrate Ventures, an emerging tech fund focused on consumer and enterprise solutions with early commercial success. Other invested AVG funds include Chestnut Street Ventures (for the Penn community), Nassau Street Ventures (for the Princeton community), Towerview Ventures (for the Duke community), and AVG’s Total Access Fund.