FarmWise, a Lemnos portfolio company, today announced it raised $5.7 million in Series Seed funding to help pilot its autonomous weeding machine. In conjunction, FarmWise has finalized its first pilot contracts with large vegetable growers in California. FarmWise also announced that Bruce Leak, inventor of QuickTime and co-founder of WebTV, joined its Board of Directors.
FarmWise aims to shape the future of vegetable farming, a $17 billion industry in the US alone, with machines that can adapt to different tasks to meet the needs of each plant, at any time. The company’s first machine offers high-precision weeding and smart thinning, replacing herbicides and increasing yields. FarmWise will use the funding to pilot these machines on some of the largest vegetable farms in the US.
“Demand for organic food has been growing 10 percent year-over-year for the last ten years. This funding will help us bring to the market one of the first fully autonomous solutions in US farms next year and allow us to help farmers be more efficient and engage in more sustainable farming,” said Sébastien Boyer, co-founder and CEO of FarmWise.
The current funding is led by hardware-focused venture fund Playground, as well as Felicis Ventures, investors in Cruise and Fitbit; a new AI-focused fund called Basis Set Ventures; and Valley Oak Investments, an investment firm focused on early-stage food, agriculture, and health and wellness companies.
It was early-stage hardware firm Lemnos, however, that first understood the potential and invested in FarmWise.
“We were very honest with ourselves about being young, international founders. Choosing a pre-seed fund that’s actually in San Francisco and has a reputation for being well connected was instrumental for us,” says Boyer. “Lemnos helped us define milestones, validate metrics, know when to best approach investors, and know what to focus on in negotiations.”
The FarmWise machine employs computer vision, deep learning, and plant recognition for effective weeding. It can adapt seamlessly to different crops, and ultimately will adjust to additional farming tasks. FarmWise aims to deploy their first commercial weeders next year, following the success of this pilot program.
This current round of funding will also help the company expand its engineering team. To learn about available positions, visit FarmWise’s website.
Also, stay tuned for our upcoming interview with FarmWise co-founders Sébastien Boyer and Thomas Palomares in Episode 6, Season Two of “Into the Forge,” the Lemnos podcast. (This podcast will air in early January 2018.) You can subscribe to “Into the Forge” through iTunes.