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Automating agriculture is a complex proposition given the number and variety of tasks involved, but a number of robotics and autonomy companies are giving it their best shot. FarmWise seems to have impressed someone — it just raised $ 14.5 million to continue development of its autonomous weeding vehicle.

Currently in the prototype stage, these vehicles look like giant lumbering personnel carriers or the like, but are in fact precision instruments which scan the ground for invasive weeds among the crop and carefully pluck them out.

“Each day, one FarmWise robot can weed crops to feed a medium-sized city of approximately 400,000 inhabitants,” said FarmWise CEO Sebastien Boyer in a press release announcing the latest funding round. “We are now enhancing the scale and depth of our proprietary plant-detection technology to help growers with more of their processes and on more of their crops.”

Presumably the robot was developed and demonstrated with something of a specialty in one crop or another, more as a proof of concept than anything.

Well, it seems to have proved the concept. The new $ 14.5 million round, led by Calibrate Ventures, is likely due to the success of these early trials. This is far from an easy problem, so going from idea to nearly market-ready in under three years is pretty impressive. Farmers love tech — if it works. And tiny issues or error rates can lead to enormous problems with the vast monoculture fields that make up the majority of U.S. farms.

The company previously took in about $ 5.7 million in a seed round, following its debut on Alchemist Accelerator’s demo day back in 2017. Robots are expensive!

Hopefully the cash infusion will help propel FarmWise from prototype to commercialization, though it’s hard to imagine they could build more than a handful of the machines with that kind of money. Perhaps they’ll line up a couple big orders and build on that future revenue.

Meanwhile they’ll continue to develop the AI that powers the chunky, endearing vehicles.

“Looking ahead, our robots will increasingly act as specialized doctors for crops, monitoring individual health and adjusting targeted interventions according to a crop’s individual needs,” said Boyer. So not only will these lumbering platforms delicately remove weeds, but they’ll inspect for aphids and fungus and apply the necessary remedies.

With that kind of inspection they can make a data play later — what farmer wouldn’t want to be able to digitally inspect every plant in their fields?


TechCrunch

Waresix, one of a handful of startups aiming to modernize logistics in Indonesia — the world’s fourth most populous country — has pulled in $ 14.5 million to grow its 18-month-old business.

This new investment, Waresix’s Series A, is led by EV Growth — the growth-stage fund co-run by East Ventures — with participation from SMDV — the investment arm of Indonesia corporation Sinar Mas — and Singapore’s Jungle Ventures . The startup previously raised $ 1.6 million last year from East Ventures, SMDV and Monk’s Hill Ventures. It closed a seed round in early 2018.

Waresix is aiming to digitize logistics, the business of moving goods from A to B, which it believes is worth a total of $ 240 billion in Indonesia.

A large part of that is down to the country’s geography. The archipelago officially has over 17,000, but there are five main ones. That necessitates a lot of challenges for logistics, which are said to account for 25-30 percent of GDP — a figure that is typically below five percent in Western markets — while Indonesia barely scraped the top 50 rankings in World Bank’s Logistics Performance Index.

But, as Southeast Asia’s largest economy and the key market for digital growth in the region, that makes this an attractive problem to solve… or, rather, attractive industry to modernize.

Like others in its space worldwide — which include Chinese unicorn Manbang and BlackBuck in India — Waresix is focused on optimizing logistics by making the process more transparent for clients and more efficient for haulage companies and truckers. That includes removing the chain of ‘middle man’ brokers, who add costs and reduce transparency, and provide a one-stop solution for transportation by land or sea, as well as cold storage and general cargo handling.

As of today, Waresix claims a fleet of more than 20,000 trucks and over 200 warehouses partners across Indonesia. The company said it plans to use this new capital to expand that coverage further. In particular, that’ll include additional land transport options and additional warehouse capacity in tier-two cities and more remote areas. That’s a push that founders Andree Susanto (CEO) and Edwin Wibowo (CFO) — who met at UC Berkeley in the U.S. — believe fits with Indonesia’s own $ 400 billion commitment to improve national infrastructure and transport.

Waresix trucks

Waresix trucks

It is also consistent with East Ventures, the long-standing early-stage VC, which has backed a pack of young companies aiming to inject internet smarts into traditional industries in Indonesia. Some of that portfolio includes Warung Pintar, which develops smart street vendor kiosks, Kedai Sayur, which is digitizing street vendors, and Fore Coffee, which draws inspiration from China’s digital-first brand Luckin Coffee, which recently listed in the U.S.

Now with EV Growth, which reached a final close of $ 200 million thanks to LPs that include SoftBank, the East Ventures has the firepower to write larger checks that go beyond seed and pre-Series A deals as it has done with Waresix.

But the company is far from alone in going after the logistics opportunity in Indonesia. Its rivals include Kargo, which was started by a former Uber Asia exec and is backed by Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick’s 10100 fund among others, and Ritase.

Ritase, which claims to be profitable, closed an $ 8.5 million Series A this week. It said it has 7,500 trucks and, on the client side, some 500 SMEs and a smattering of well-known global brands. Kargo has kept its metrics quiet, but it is a later arrival on the scene. The startup only came out of stealth in March of this year when it announced a $ 7.6 million funding round.


TechCrunch

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