US-based AI and robotics company – TerraClear is focused on nuisance farmland rocks… and solutions for clearing them. Rocks in fields break expensive machinery and, as the race towards autonomous agricultural technology gathers pace, provide automated mapping and obstacle headaches. Even today TerraClear estimate that medium to large farms incur between US$5,000 and US$150,000 worth of annual damage and cost due to farmland rocks.
Spread out over hundreds of millions of acres across the globe, TerraClear sees agricultural rock clearance as a huge unaddressed commercial opportunity. This week the company announced Series A funding of US$25 million led by Madrona Venture Group, bringing the company’s total funding to US$38 million.
Earlier in 2021, TerraClear released its first Rock Picker which picks an average of 400 rocks per hour. It can lift rocks weighing as much as 300lbs / 135kg. The company says it quickly sold out and the second run will be delivered at the end of summer.
Evan Aardema, a farmer and TerraClear customer in southern Idaho said, “On a 150 acre field we went from it taking 4 days and 6 guys to pick the rock by hand, to 1 day with 3 guys with the Rock Picker. That’s an 8x efficiency gain in the labour, and now I’ve got 18 days of labour that I can spend on something more productive.”
Less than five minutes to mount
The Rock Picker enables customers to remove rocks with the touch of a button. It currently works on a compact track loader or skid steer and will soon be compatible with front-end loaders on tractors.
From traditionally cultivated to no-till conditions, seeded fields, stubble, or even pastureland, the Rock Picker minimizes compaction and ground disturbance on the soil. This is an increasingly important factor in modern farming which emphasizes soil conservation practices such as no-till and minimum till practices.
Founder and CEO Brent Frei grew up on his family’s farm in Idaho and returned to this passion after founding and growing a successful tech company, Smartsheet. “This is something I’ve personally dealt with my entire life,” said Frei. “There are more than 400 million arable acres worldwide that have been waiting for a cost-effective and productive solution to this problem. Repetitive tasks like this are optimal targets for automation, and the technologies we are bringing to the field dramatically reduce the labour and time needed to prep fields for planting.”
Working towards a fully autonomous Rock Picker
TerraClear’s future product roadmap includes integrating AI and computer vision with a fully autonomous rock picker platform. “We’re working every day towards a fully autonomous solution for rock picking – and that is a multi-year project. Along the way, we’re building solutions that solve this problem better than anything out there,” says President Trevor Thompson.
TerraClear also offers mapping and clearance services for those looking for a plug and play solution to picking rocks. Working with TerraClear or 3rd party drone services, TerraClear maps fields, uses AI to locate large rocks and then deploys the Rock Picker to clear the field.
In addition to scaled production and sales in 2022, the team will use the injection of capital to accelerate the development of autonomy and grow the team in Washington and Idaho.