SUNNYVALE, Calif. — Bear Flag Robotics today announced a $3.5 million seed funding round led by True Ventures. The Silicon Valley-based agtech company Bear Flag Robotics is developing autonomous driving and implements control technology for agricultural tractors, freeing growers from hours of monotonous driving and the high cost of labor to fill tractor seats.
As part of the raise, they have welcomed Rohit Sharma, venture partner at True Ventures, to the board. Including this round of funding, the company has raised $4.5 million total since Bear Flag Co-Founders Igino Cafiero and Aubrey Donnellan started the company in 2017.
Today’s growers compete for skilled labor with the construction, mining and trucking industries.
Research suggests that autonomous robots can lower labor expenses and also increase yields by up to 15 percent. Projected yield gains are possible through the reduced soil compaction of smaller tractors. This gain cannot be realized with today’s high cost of labor.
Bear Flag Robotics’ autonomous driving technology for farm tractors solves these problems by equipping tractors and implements with technology that allows growers to automate many of their most common tasks. These include spraying and mowing operations in specialty crops such as nuts, fruits, and grapes in addition to common ground prep tasks such as discing and ripping. As a result, Bear Flag enables a single supervisor to operate a fleet of vehicles, where an entire crew was once required.
Autonomous technology is already enabling advancements in the manufacturing, mining and aviation industries. However, farming has yet to leverage this technology, which will be needed to meet the 70 percent increase in global food demand by 2050.
“We’re incredibly interested in how automation and technology can fundamentally aid the farmer in their constant struggle against the elements including changing climate patterns and soil health,” said Sharma. “Bear Flag’s autonomous driving technology for farm machines can increase crop yields, lower operational costs and ultimately lay the groundwork for more sustainable food production.”
Bear Flag will provide leasing options to growers who wish to operate their own fleet of autonomous equipment. Additionally, they will offer both full-service and hybrid models, where operations are supervised by a central location. Operations will begin by the end of 2018.
Founded in 2005, True Ventures is a Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm that invests in early-stage technology startups. With more than $1.4 billion under management, True provides seed and Series A funding to the most talented entrepreneurs in today’s fastest growing markets.