Muddy Machines, the AgTech and robotics company that helps automate crop harvesting, have announced a new round of seed funding of £1.5m.
The company’s technology allows farmers to precision harvest crops like asparagus. Its Sprout robot can drive through fields harvesting accurately for up to 16 hours a day with no need for breaks and no decline in performance.
The new round of funding will be used to strengthen the company’s engineering team and build capacity to cope with more widespread adoption of its technology. Specifically, the areas that the company will focus on are:
· Building a small herd of Sprout robots for the 2023 asparagus harvest season and generating initial revenues.
· Continuing with the development of different crop harvesting capabilities.
· Planning production of the next generation of lightweight, battery-powered Sprout robots.
This latest round of funding was led by Regenerate Ventures, which specialises in investing in technologies that help farmers produce food with less impact on the environment. It was supported with participation from Ponderosa Ventures, Jude Gomilla, Thrive/SVG Ventures and others.
“We were impressed by Muddy Machine’s vision and the speed of technical development,” said Paul Rous, MD at Regenerate Ventures. “This was a company founded in the midst of the first lockdown. Within two years they had a robot asparagus harvester built and commercially tested.”
Florian Richter, CEO and co-founder at Muddy Machines, said: “Raising money for AgTech and hardware businesses is a challenge at the best of times. We are extremely proud to have secured this funding in the current investment climate. We are now focused on creating a meaningful amount of harvest capacity for our customers.”
A shortage of agricultural workers is creating a crisis for many farmers. In the UK, the House of Commons environment, food and rural affairs select committee has warned that crops are being left to rot and that the country’s £100bn farming industry is likely to shrink permanently because farms have been unable to hire all the seasonal workers they need. The number of vacancies is estimated to be 500,000 out of 4.1 million roles. Its recent paper on labour shortages in the food and farming sector called for more investment in technology to supplement labour.
“The situation is desperate,“ said John Chinn of Cobrey Farms, the UK’s largest growers of asparagus. “It’s not about cutting costs of labour, but our inability to find it. We have a 12-week season and this technology is vital if we are to harvest the crop.”
Muddy Machines developed its Sprout robot through trials this year on Chinn’s land. He added: “The Sprout machine is very impressive. It takes itself up and down the rows of asparagus and harvests the spears, putting them in a tray without causing any damage.”