Bonsai Robotics, which provides the first computer vision-based automation solutions for harsh, off-road environments, announced today that it has raised a $13.5M seed round led by Acre Venture Partners with participation from E14, Congruent, Serra Ventures, Fall Line Capital, SNR Ventures, Andros, and angels including Travis Deyle (founder of Cobalt Robotics), Lee Redden (founder of Blue River Tech), and Matt Barnard (founder of Plenty). Bonsai Robotics will use the funds to accelerate its product roadmap and invest in both hiring and sales & marketing.
Bonsai Robotics is focused on environments where traditional GPS, stereovision, time of flight sensors and LIDAR-based autonomy systems fail. Its first market is orchards – specifically nut orchards – a space that’s been beleaguered by severe labor shortages, environmental pressure and price pressure, and so challenging and adverse that even decades old autosteer technology used in row crops does not work. Bonsai Robotics solutions are integrated with OEM farm equipment to allow vehicles to autonomously traverse orchards without human operators (see video at bonsairobotics.ai). Because Bonsai Robotics software leverages AI SLAM (Simultaneous Localization and Mapping) technology built using a data set of tens of thousands of acres, it can operate in adverse conditions including remote areas with dust, debris, heavy vibration and unreliable GPS coverage. Bonsai Robotics can also integrate with the many different machines used in an orchard. The company has already forged relationships with key OEMs including OMC and Flory Industries, and with strategic partner Danfoss.
Several Calif. growers participated in trials of Bonsai Robotics technology in their fields in 2023. One is Pomona Farming. “The results we saw from Bonsai Robotics were outstanding,” said Ceil Howe at Pomona Farming. “The system seamlessly adapted to any field condition and enabled us to harvest faster than when we used traditional shakers alone. This is the most transformative technology I’ve seen in ag tech since the advent of GPS - it will redefine how we approach orchard management and harvesting.”
“Bonsai Robotics is combating growers’ biggest challenge: the labor shortage,” said Lucas Mann, Managing Partner at Acre Venture Partners, a firm focused on sustainability in the food system. “This is the type of innovation that will drive fundamental change to improve access to fresh food and lighten the footprint of each acre. After years looking into robotics and autonomy, we feel Bonsai presents the best solution we’ve seen and look forward to working closely with Tyler, Ugur and the team to make Bonsai ubiquitous in orchards and beyond.”
“To date, GPS-based computer vision systems have failed in harvest conditions, meaning all machinery had to be operated by humans,” said Ugur Oezdemir, co-founder of Bonsai Robotics. “Our team has a deep background in ag tech, autonomous vehicles and computer vision, and we were determined to solve this problem. We did it through state-of-the-art 3D vision techniques using standard, durable automotive cameras to keep the cost down.”
“Early feedback from OEMs and our grower customers has been outstanding,” said Tyler Niday, co-founder and CEO of Bonsai Robotics. “With our use case now proven, Bonsai Robotics can move forward with expansion into other areas of agriculture and beyond to other off-road environments. We’re thankful to our investors and customers for their support and looking forward to what’s to come.”