Antobot, a UK-based start-up developing affordable robotics for sustainable agriculture, has secured £1.2 million in their seed funding round following a strategic investment from a leading automotive electronics solutions provider in China, Intron Technology Holdings Ltd (1760:HKG).
Defra (2020) estimates the UK agricultural industry was worth over £10 billion to the national economy in 2019, but it is facing unprecedented challenges with an increasing global population, pressure to achieve Net Zero, and declining number of agri-food labourers with the NFU predicting a shortage of ~70,000 workers for 2021.
Agricultural robotics can become one of the key enablers to feed future societies by undertaking short-cycle repetitive tasks that currently make inefficient use of resources that are both costly and limited including large diesel-based machinery, agro-chemicals and labour.
Founded by embedded controls and robotics experts, Antobot is developing innovative vertically-integrated robotics AI solutions optimised for agriculture aiming to increase efficiency and sustainability whilst maintaining accessibility and affordability with products expected in the market in 2022.
Antobot’s first product line is its fully integrated automotive-grade universal Robot Control Unit (uRCU®), the “brain” of the robot. Once requiring multiple separate modules, the uRCU®’s sophisticated design combines the core hardware and advanced software for agri-robotic applications in one compact single unit.
“The integrated design makes the uRCU® smaller, more reliable and affordable than other existing solutions, and the full-stack AI also confers performance benefits with its universal, configurable design that can adapt to different farmer needs” Howard Wu, Antobot CEO.
This funding will enable Antobot to develop various full applications using its modular platform, starting with its scouting robot, Insight.
Focusing initially on the £875 million UK fruit sector, Insight travels autonomously through the farm and, using artificial intelligence, gathers accurate, timely and rich data for deeper insight into crop yield, profile, and pest / disease management. Unlike manual scouting or scouting using large heavy machinery, Insight is powered by renewable energy and does not require any labour. Working with a selection of partner farms in England, Insight will be trialled in UK fields this summer of 2021.
“The development of Insight has been directly informed by the experiences of our partner fruit-growers in the UK - their concerns over achieving the NFU’s 2040 Net Zero goal and the loss of agri-labour. Insight will provide accurate yield forecasts, real-time crop management and digitisation of the supply chain using this early growth-stage data, which can give growers greater weight in contract negotiations, decrease avoidable food waste and enable more efficient use of limited labour.” Marc Jones, Antobot VP Commercial
From its inception, Antobot has been supported by various organisations including Agri-TechE, Agri-EPI, Innovate UK, Eastern Agri-Tech Growth Initiative, St John's Innovation Centre, ideaSpace of Cambridge University, and Anglia Ruskin University. This strategic investment from Intron Technology will provide valuable support in supply chain, manufacturing and quality assurance to bring Antobot’s uRCU® and Insight to market in 2022.
“We are strongly committed to Research and Development at Intron, particularly when promoting sustainability. And we are looking forward to working with Antobot, learning from each other, and helping Antobot grow into the leading force in the agricultural robotics sector we know it can be” Eddie Chan, Co-CEO and Executive Director of Intron Technology
Intron Technology is a fast growing and leading automotive electronics solution provider in China with a footprint in Europe, covering a wide range of products, particularly within autonomous driving and powertrain electrification. With their growing commitment to sustainable mobility, Intron is focusing on the development of key components for New Energy Vehicles, and this investment represents their recognition of the importance of the agricultural sector in determining a sustainable future, and the opportunity for intelligent robotics to make a substantial impact.
Antobot Ltd is an award-winning start-up founded in 2019 working with several growers in the UK to develop affordable robotics for sustainable agriculture. With a world-class team based in the UK and China, Antobot has been supported by multiple organisations, including Innovate UK, and are the Champions of Agri-EPI Agricultural Technology Hackathon 2020 in the horticulture sector.
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