Norway and UK-based Saga Robotics has raised €9.5 million in its latest round of funding from international investors, including the Norwegian sovereign climate investment company Nysnø Climate Investments, London-based ADM Capital Europe LLP, and Rabo Food & Agri Innovation Fund – the investment arm of world-leading Dutch agricultural bank, Rabobank. These lead investors were also joined by a group of Norwegian investors including Propagator Venture.
Despite the agricultural sector employing roughly 1.1 billion people worldwide, it continues to face labour shortages, which have only increased further during the coronavirus pandemic, impacting overall food production. The need for environmentally conscious, sustainable solutions is imperative, making the case for automation stronger than ever, according to the company.
Saga says its ‘Thorvald’ robots offer such a solution: First developed in 2014 and already in service on multiple farms across the world, they are currently performing light treatment to control mildew on strawberries and vines, drastically reducing the need for fungicides. Meanwhile a strawberry-picking variant continues development, with commercial deployment imminent.
Thorvald is an autonomous and completely self-propelled robot that uses advanced algorithms to navigate the challenging terrain found on farms. The company says it offers substantial benefits and cost savings to farmers, with the potential to revolutionise the industry to the same extent the tractor did. Customers in Norway, the US and the UK have already chosen Saga Robotics as their robotic partner of choice after seeing product results and the versatility and integration efficiency of the Thorvald platform. The company is also developing tools for weeding, crop prediction and much more.
“Agriculture has experienced enormous development in recent decades which has enabled much of the population growth, as well as the growth in prosperity we have seen in the last 50 years,” said Pål Johan From, CEO of Saga Robotics. “Now that we must double our food production again by 2050, we see that robotisation and digitalisation will be key elements in the agricultural revolution that is needed to achieve these goals. Our goal is for Thorvald to play a key role in the transition to more sustainable and efficient farming practises, and we see enormous market opportunities for growth internationally in all the segments we operate in.”
“The challenge is to increase food production in a changing climate,” added Siri Kalvig, CEO of Nysnø Climate Investments. “The Saga robot technology shows us a promising future where artificially intelligent and precise machines use less resources to achieve higher yield. Together with leading investors, we look forward to the further scaling of Thorvald and growth of Saga Robotics.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need to advance the use of robotics in agriculture, as technology will play an increasing part in reducing labour risk in the harvesting process,” noted Alastair Cooper, head of venture investments at ADM Capital Europe LLP. “The Cibus Enterprise Fund is excited to add Saga Robotics to its growing portfolio of sustainable agri-food tech investments. Saga’s robots improve sustainability in farming by reducing soil compression, CO2 emissions and production losses due to mildew. Using precision farming technology, Saga reduces pesticide and fungicide use and increases plant yields. With quality data applications we will start to see greater actionable intelligence provided to farmers.”
“As a specialist food and agri investor, we at the Rabo Food & Agri Innovation Fund are deeply aware of the increasing necessity for automation in driving efficiencies in how we grow and harvest our food,” concluded Richard O’Gorman, managing director at Rabo Food & Agri Innovation Fund. “There are several aspects to the associated benefits, including improved labour, inputs, yield, cost and quality management and in turn tangible sustainability improvements. Given the progress and deep R&D capability shown to date, we are very proud to partner with Saga Robotics as they roll out more functionality on the base Thorvald robot and look forward to scaling the company together with a strong group of investors.”