Florian Richter: Sustainably Solve Agriculture’s Labour Challenges With Robots

August 9, 2022

Mission: Forge agriculture’s path to benefit both people and planet

Vision: Sustainably solve agriculture’s labour challenges with robots

Agriculture is one of the few industries that can reverse climate change. The solutions exist but they are very labour intensive and therefore costly.

We are building a robotic platform that fixes horticultural farmers harvest labour issues. This enables the sustainable production of nutritious vegetables domestically and reduces carbon intensive food miles.

Our first application is a Green Asparagus Harvester and we have additional crops in development.

We have impressed the global community with our unrivalled development speed of our unique autonomous, lightweight, low cost and battery-powered robot that operates in a herd.

We strongly believe in the advantages of this technology versus heavy, Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) powered large-scale machines that cause soil compaction and create a single point of failure in a grower’s system.

Tell us about yourself?

I did my business degree in 2008 and have since been dabbling in various internet startups over the last 15 years. The pandemic has made re-evaluate my priorities and the contribution I wanted to make to the world with my entrepreneurial activity.

My wife’s family as taken over a sizeable farm operation a few years ago and this has inspired me to look a little more closely at what technology has not yet been adopted in agriculture.

If you could go back in time a year or two, what piece of advice would you give yourself?

That is an excellent question.
Here are a few:

  • Don’t pitch an AgTech business to a generalist VC.
  • Keep going, it will all work out, what you are working on is becoming more relevant every month!

What problem does your business solve?

Farmers face 50%+ in labour shortages – they watch their crops rotting in the field and loose millions. We will loose the know-how to grow specialty crops like asparagus, courgettes, berries and tomatoes domestically within a few years.

What is the inspiration behind your business?

We spoke to farmers in 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic, to understand what their biggest problem is.

There are many issues, but the recurring theme was labour shortages and we felt well equipped to tackle it because my co-founder Chris is a brilliant robotics engineer.

What is your magic sauce?

We have built a robotic platform called Sprout. These are electrically powered, light weight and autonomous robots that can carry out a variety of labour intensive field tasks. The first tool for sprout is a very efficient and accurate green asparagus harvester (patent pending).

Robotic harvesting as a concept has been around for a while but we are the first company to make it work in a commercially viable way. This has resulted in some very strong industry support. We work with the largest UK asparagus grower who produces over 50% of the UK’s output.

What is the plan for the next 5 years? What do you want to achieve?

We want to successively scale the size of our robotic herd to have a real and lasting impact on the labour shortage situation in green asparagus.

At the same time we want to bring new harvest and weeding tools to market that can also be used on Sprout and expand its window of operation to span as many months of the farming calendar as possible.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?

Hardware is hard, goes the saying. And this is true, especially if you are attempting to deploy it in an outdoor environment. There are no shortcuts to intensive field-testing and iterating around your design concepts.

This takes both time and money and investors are weary to get involved for this very reason.
We dealt with this by getting some extra runway from winning a total of 4 innovation grants that have enabled us to develop our technology far enough to become investable.

How do people get involved/buy into your vision?

We are constantly on the lookout for engineering talent that wants to make a real world impact with their work.

Please take a look at our careers page for open roles. We have just closed our seed round and are hard at work to grow the team.

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