Verdant Robotics, Inc. has been working its way into the agricultural industry, bringing forth technological breakthroughs one innovative step at a time. Since its 2018 startup, this company from East Bay has managed to do what previous robotics-based companies haven’t, which is stay in business. At least so far. As a business, however, what is actually known about Verdant Robotics?
According to TechCrunch, Verdant Robotics has so far managed to raise over $21.5 million USD, thanks to an $11.5 million USD in Series A funding that occurred in 2019. This puts the company at pace to fully commercialize its primary product as a precise muli-tasking machine for orchard by 2023.
Raas stands for robotics as a service, which is a program model designed for select farmers, specifically with carrot crops. At the moment, the Verdant Robotics is aiming to get as many of its robotic systems out to farms as possible in order to perform real-world testing for data collection and analysis. At the moment, this is being done through rentals as it’s the easiest method to use at this time. These machines are designed as an autonomous farm robot that sprays and lasers weeds with an artificial intelligence-based crop modeling setup. This is designed to give farmers a better picture of what their crops crave. This way, they are able to better control crop management that’s profitable yet more efficient when it comes to otherwise back-breaking and sometimes dangerous work.
Verdant Robotics is headquartered out of Hayward, California. They first started out with self-driving cars and interstellar rovers that have roamed the planet Mars. The company is now looking into the creation of autonomous robots that are capable of growing and managing specialty crops as a means to catapult the agricultural industry into a new age of farming techniques with the intent to make what’s otherwise back-breaking work into something less demanding on the physical body. This is located just east of San Fransisco, in an area known as East Bay, which is along the coast of northern California.
Gabe Sibley is the co-founder, chief executive officer (CEO), and board member of Verdant Robotics, Inc. In addition to this, he is also the CEO of Zippy Inc., an autonomous delivery company that he also co-founded but in 2017. As of 2018, however, Zippy Inc. has been acquired by General Motors. He also was the chief science officer of the autonomous taxi company known as Zoox, Inc. While there he helped the tream grow to over two hundred members. He also brings with him mentoring experience as an assistant professor in computer science while at Boulder’s University of Colorado, a position he still holds today. He was also a research assistant while at the Oxford University. The fondness of working with robotics in science and systematics inspired Sibley to start up Verdant Robotics, Inc. as a company in 2018.
Curtis Garner is one of the co-founders of Verdant Robotics, Inc. and currently serves as the chief operating officer (COO) and as a member of the company’s board. Garner brings with him more than a decade’s worth of farming experience from the agricultural communities of California, the Pacific Northwest, and the nation of Chile. Before Verdant, Garner was the senior business analyst for Bowles Farming, which is a 12,000-acre family-owned and operated fresh market and specialty processing farm that grows twenty-one different crops in organic and conventional production. It was Garner who implemented automation to Bowles as a means to improve farming operations, as well as deal with the issues of hiring sufficient labor to handle the challenges.
As one of the co-founders of Verdant Robotics, Inc., Lawrence Ibarria also serves as the company’s vice-president of its software engineering department. Prior to Verdant, Ibarria was the director of simulation at Cruise Automation, which is a self-driving company belonging to General Motors. While there, he designed key functionality for safety and performance for autonomous driving in some of the most challenging driving environments in the U.S. after the creation of the company’s simulation data center that was integral to the development of safe autonomous automobiles.
There are five primary areas that serves as the focus behind Verdant Robotics, Inc. They are operator interface, mobility or locomotion, manipulators and effectors, programming, and sensing and perception. Although separate entities, all five need to work together harmoniously in order for each robotic device to operate at an optimal level.
As far as Verdant Robotics, Inc. is concerned, the artificial intelligence (AI) unit is only as effective as its ability to properly communicate with the human controller. Through the operator interface, otherwise known as the Human Robot Interface, this serves as the medium to allow the user and the robot to communicate with each other through pre-programmed commands that are assigned to the robot to execute. Much like how a game controller delivers a set of commands to perform specific functions, so is the case for an operator to command a farming device to behave according to command.
The only way for a robotic to complete an assigned task is to ensure it has the maneuverability to do it. Whatever environment it happens to be in, this movement ability is called locomotion, and it can be achieved through a variety of different methods. One example is a robot mimicking a human being’s movement, just like what’s seen on product assembly lines. Drones are designed with propellers to copy the movement of a helicopter, as do rovers copy the movement of motorized vehicles. Whatever environment the robot is in needs to be adapted to so that the robot can move about, performing the tasks it has been assigned to do.
The ability to properly interact with an environment it’s been assigned to is essential for a robot to prove its worth. This is where manipulators and effectors come in as they enable the robot to pick up objects, move them, and manipulate items that are separate from the system. Among robots that appear like human beings, they employ appendages and digits that work just like hands so that they can perform given tasks. Such manipulators and effectors include the ability to claw, pinch, and push objects.
Programs are designed to carry out whatever the intended purpose is to get something done. With robotics, digital programming is the official language between a person and a machine as the communication relay dictates what needs to be done. Advanced programming, otherwise known as artificial intelligence, has it where an AI can learn and adapt to whatever it encounters within its environment. Through commands, they allow the user to program a robot to perform a series of tasks in sequence in autonomous form.
Sensors are used to gather information, which is one of the robot’s primary functions. This information informs the robot what sort of physical space it has to work with, as well as where it needs to go. It also senses if there are any obstacles in its path and how to properly react to it.
There are seven main investors that have been instrumental in the growth of Verdant Robotics, Inc. They are E2JDJ, AgFunder, Autotech Ventures, Cavallo Ventures, DCVC Bio, Doon Capital, and Future Ventures. Each of them hold minority shares, as well as a number of smaller-scaled investors that are keeping watch how the evolution of robotic farming progresses. According to AgFunder news, the future of Verdant Robotics, Inc. looks bright and promising enough to keep investing as the breakthrough technology continues to impress.
So far, Verdant Robotics, Inc. has been contracted to service approximately forty percent of the American carrot market for five years. In addition to carrots, the robotic-style machinery also works with the crops and orchards featuring apples, cherries, garlic, onions, peaches, and plums. Specialty crops that have fixed infrastructure layouts has so far been a good fit for the robotic technology that has so far been introduced as a trial run. It is the hope by 2023 there will be a lineup of commercialized versions of this innovative product made available to the open market.
According to Verdant Robotics, Inc.’s website, there is a waiting list for the 2022 lineup of automated multi-crop, self-driving farm vehicles as the growing interest of farming outfits are lining up to learn more what it can do and how it will benefit them. This is more than just a piece of farm machinery. It is also a programmable tool that’s designed to optimize a farmer’s busy schedule with less worry and better productivity.
With an estimate of ten billion people by 2050, Verdant Robotics, Inc. has a determination to ensure the agricultural industry is able to keep up with the growing demands placed on farmers. Not only does the automation technology enable a more efficient means to run any farm, regardless of size, it also eases the carbon footprint with cleaner machinery operations as opposed to the current industry standard.
There may be a concern among members of the agricultural community how will jobs be affected due to the incoming of AI units manning machinery and tools that are otherwise done by people. As the world evolves with new technological breakthroughs, so does the ever-changing face of the job market. Due to the on-farm technology advancements, there is a need for more data operators and robot mechanics. Although no jobs have been officially posted with Verdant Robotics, Inc. there is an invite for interested individuals to inquire and apply. What the company is currently looking for as talent are engineers, software experts, a technological team, as well as professionals in the agricultural industry and robotics.
At the moment, Verdant Robotics, Inc. has thirty-eight members of the company with LinkedIn profiles. The talent pool is mostly based out of the Haywood, California area but there are a few that are remotely located due to the complications brought about by COVID-19.
Agtech is an industry due to be disrupted by robotic engineering. Abundant Robotics attempted to do this but has since gone under. However, Wavemaker Labs, Miso, and Future Acres picked up Abundant’s mantle, then teamed up with Verdant Robotics, Inc. to build what has now become a leader in the modernizing of the agricultural trade. The other competitor, Traptic, was snatched up by Bowery for vertical farming applications. For companies like Miso/Wavemaker and Verdant, the need to fill the worker gap that was created since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic has placed them in great positions to be of real service to farming outfits that need to meet their own contractual obligations. With a world population that continues to grow, so does the demand for the agricultural industry to keep up. Like it or not, computers and machinery are capable of doing things that the human body can’t. However, keep in mind, those computers and robots are useless without the human race to build them, program them, and maintain them.
With successful funding so far, the future looks bright for Verdant Robotics, Inc. since it first became a company in 2018. So far, it remains as a privately owned company that is co-owned by three individuals and invested in by a collection of companies that have a vested interest in its development. At the moment, there are no stocks in Verdant’s name. Time will tell if it will remain a private company or if it will find itself as a stock option on Wall Street.Prev ArticleNext Article
Allen Lee is a Toronto-based freelance writer who studied business in school but has since turned to other pursuits. He spends more time than is perhaps wise with his eyes fixed on a screen either reading history books, keeping up with international news, or playing the latest releases on the Steam platform, which serve as the subject matter for much of his writing output. Currently, Lee is practicing the smidgen of Chinese that he picked up while visiting the Chinese mainland in hopes of someday being able to read certain historical texts in their original language.
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