Autonomous field robotics start-up secures $6.5m in funding
Agricultural robotics company set to commercialise platforms that address the need to support growers, increase on-farm productivity and improve environmental sustainability
SYDNEY, AU – April 8, 2019 – Agerris, a field robotics start-up based on technology created by the University of Sydney’s Australian Centre for Field Robotics, has received $6.5 million to commercialise robotics platforms, intelligent automated tools and artificial intelligence (AI), designed to improve agricultural productivity and environmental sustainability.
The $6.5 million raising is one of the largest seed investment rounds in agricultural technology in Australia and will be used to formally launch Agerris and roll-out its platforms and data analytic tools to local and international markets. The investment was coordinated by Australia’s longest running research commercialisation fund, Uniseed, alongside leading venture capital firms Carthona Capital and BridgeLane Group.
Agerris, headed by Professor Salah Sukkarieh, is a field robotics company which originated from technology developed at the Australian Centre for Field Robotics at the University of Sydney.
Its focus is to bring to all growers the latest in air and ground field robotic systems with intelligent tools and AI solutions, aimed at supporting their on-farm activities, improve farm productivity, and to support animal welfare and environmental sustainability.
The first platform, Swagbot, is an electric ground vehicle to be used across a broad range of agriculture commodities focusing on large-scale row and tree cropping applications as well as grazing livestock. With its on-board AI and intelligent tools, it can identify and eradicate weeds, monitor pasture as well as row and tree crops and will soon have animal welfare and monitoring functionality, including the ability to herd cattle. Digital Farmhand is the second durable low-cost autonomous robotic platform that automates on-farm tasks, such as non-chemical weed removal, intelligent crop spraying and yield estimation. It has been designed to assist small-holder farmers in the row and tree crop sectors , including those in developing nations.
Agerris will initially trial and develop the systems locally in Australia and will then pursue global market opportunities. It is targeting a commercial offering for the domestic market to be available within the next year.
The need for increased productivity in agriculture and farming is increasing rapidly as population growth along with rising incomes in developing countries drive up global food demand, with forecasts that demand will increase between 59% and 98% by 2050¹.
“Growers worldwide are being impacted by weed resistance, climate change, low labour availability, high labour costs and the growing awareness for the need to use less chemicals and less energy. Furthermore, growers will need to increase production though enhancing agricultural productivity, however many often struggle to afford the best customised advice for their farm, leading to sub-optimal yields and efficiencies from their crops. Livestock farmers, also face animal welfare concerns,” said Agerris CEO, Professor Salah Sukkarieh.
“Our platforms help to mitigate these challenges and help increase productivity and environmental sustainability by giving farmers smart precision automated farming approaches, made possible through our advances in robotics, sensor technology, mapping tools and AI.”
Uniseed Investment Manager, Anthony Musumeci added: “Uniseed are excited to support this investment in Agerris as it has developed groundbreaking technology that not only addresses the growing need for increased agricultural productivity but promises to radically transform the farming process and make Australia a world-leader in intelligent farm systems.”
 Global Demand for Food is Rising. Can We Meet it? Harvard Business Review April 2016, Maarteen Elferink, Florian Schierhorn
Based on research conducted at the Australian Centre for Field Robotics at the University of Sydney, Agerris is focused on commercialising two robotic platforms serving the small holder farms (Digital Farmhand) and large-scale row and tree crop farming as well as the grazing livestock industry (Swagbot). For more information, visit: www.agerris.com
About Professor Salah Sukkarieh
Professor Sukkarieh is the Professor of Robotics and Intelligent Systems at the University of Sydney. He was the Director Research and Innovation at the Australian Centre for Field Robotics from 2007-2018, where he led the strategic research and industry engagement program in the world’s largest field robotics institute. He is an international expert in the research, development and commercialisation of field robotic systems and has led a number of robotics and intelligent systems R&D projects in logistics, commercial aviation, aerospace, education, environment monitoring, agriculture and mining. Salah was awarded the NSW Science and Engineering Award for Excellence in Engineering and Information and Communications Technologies in 2014, the 2017 CSIRO Eureka Prize for Leadership in Innovation and Science and is a 2019 NSW Australian of the Year nominee. Salah is a Fellow of Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE) and has more than 500 academic and industry publications in robotics and intelligent systems.
Uniseed is Australia’s longest running early stage commercialisation fund that makes investments in research emanating from five of Australia’s leading research organisations – The University of Queensland, The University of Sydney, The University of New South Wales, The University of Melbourne and the CSIRO. Uniseed is a mutual fund, owned by research organisations, for research organisations. The fund facilitates the commercialisation of its research partners’ most promising intellectual property and secures targeted investment in resulting products and technologies. Several of Uniseed’s investee companies have gone on to become successful and profitable commercial enterprises. For more information, visit: uniseed.com
About Carthona Capital
Carthona Capital is a hands-on, proactive, and thematic venture capital investor based in Sydney, Australia that invests globally. It was founded in 2014 when a group of like-minded venture investors came together to invest on a deal-by-deal basis. In 2017, Carthona Capital shifted to a more traditional venture capital model by raising its first fund from a mix of Institutional (Superannuation), Family Office and High Net-worth investors. Carthona Capital likes to invest very early – its initial investment into a business is usually at the Pre-Seed, Seed, or Series A stages. Carthona then likes to follow-on strongly and continue to deploy larger amounts of capital as the business matures, and in one instance supporting a business by participating in seven different independent financing rounds. For more information, visit: carthonacapital.com
About BridgeLane Group
The BridgeLane Group is an Australian-owned multinational asset management firm specialising in the agricultural and alternatives sectors. A significant global player in agriculture with a multi-decade record in large scale farming, the Group also has a proud history in residential property development, commercial real estate, venture capital investing and new business incubation. As a strategic investor, BridgeLane is committed to creating long-term value through the active management of projects as well as growing portfolio companies. Value is pursued by leveraging the Group’s experience and established networks, continually striving for information asymmetry and conducting exhaustive due diligence on all prospective opportunities. Dedicated teams of professionals based in Australia and Argentina provide coverage of our core markets of Australia, New Zealand and the Americas, For more information, visit: bridgelane.com
Salah Sukkarieh – CEO, Agerris
email@example.com +61 2 9351 8154
Anthony Musumeci – Investment Manager,Uniseed
firstname.lastname@example.org 61 437 846 698
Gabriella Hold – IR Department
email@example.com +61 411 364 382