SMALL ROBOT COMPANY £4M CROWDFUNDING SUCCESS: PUBLIC BACK SUSTAINABLE FARMING FUTURE
- latest equity crowdfunding campaign successfully gains £4 million to fund delivery of robotic Per Plant Farming for arable crops…
- £2m initial target raised at launch.
- £11 million total funding now secured to date…
Salisbury, 25 August 2021 Small Robot Company (SRC), a British agritech start-up for sustainable farming, raised £4 million in a successful equity crowdfunding campaign with Crowdcube. The company has now secured £11 million in funding to date.
Over 2500 retail investors backed the campaign, with the initial target of £2m raised on the day of launch. The campaign then doubled the target, reaching the stretch ceiling of £4m and closing the campaign early, overfunding by 200%.
CEO and Co-founder Ben Scott-Robison comments:
“This funding round is transformative to Small Robot Company. The 2600 investors have provided us with the resources to deliver on our promise, to both farmers and corporate customers. It is proof, not only that Small Robot Company is technically capable of delivering the change that farmers need, but that there is overwhelming public and industry support for delivering our vision, and the need for per plant farming in the food system of tomorrow.”
The funding will finance SRC’s service for farmer and corporate customers with Per Plant data, and commercialisation of its Per Plant Action capability.
President & Co-founder Sam Watson Jones comments
“At Small Robot Company, we are four years into an exciting journey. It has been four years of amazing technology achievements, but we are still right at the start of what we want to achieve as a commercial entity. We now begin moving from having working, unique and patented technology, to where we want to be, which is a large and profitable business having a huge impact on the way our food is produced.”
Barrie Hepstonstall, Small Robot Company CCO comments:
“This financing round will not only accelerate delivery to farmers, but enable us to expand the number and range of projects we are working on with large corporate clients. They’ve shown us that the Tom + Wilma Per Plant Intelligence offering is a scientific tool which provides R&D scientists with orders of magnitude more data. Data from which to make more refined product investment decisions”
Agriculture is a $2.4 trillion industry, with the precision farming market a huge global opportunity for investors. Goldman Sachs predicts that the market for digital agricultural technology will be $240 billion by 2050, up from just over $5 billion today.
Small Robot Company’s mission is to maximise food production while reducing its cost on the environment. Using robotics and artificial intelligence, it has created an entirely new model for sustainable, efficient and profitable farming. Its farmbots Tom, Dick and Harry will plant, monitor and treat arable crops autonomously, with minimal waste.
The main focus of the extra funding will be accelerating AI modelling. At the end of last year, Small Robot Company took the strategic decision to focus on growing in house AI capabilities, regarding this as the area of biggest value and defensibility.
SRC has overfunded in four Crowdcube campaigns, raising £9.4 million. Its two previous rounds closed early, over-subscribing by 274% and 298%. In the company’s last raise, it raised £1.1 million in less than 48 hours via a private Crowdcube equity crowdfunding campaign, which was subsequently matchfunded by the government Future Fund scheme, achieving £2.2 million successful funding in total.
The overfunding secured in the previous round has accelerated development through key hires, speeding time to market. New hires following the raise include:
- David Moser as CTO Ex-Director of Research and Technology at Blatchford, the multi-award winning manufacturer of the world’s most advanced mechatronic prosthetics.
- Charlie Box as Head of Innovation, joining from Dyson where he spent ten years in the innovation team
- Tom Watsham as Head of Intelligence, joining from Google DeepMind, where as Research Scientist he led on its Google Assistant development
- Shereen Okotie – Inception Manager Ex-Senior Project Manager, Dyson.
- Kieran Southward – Electronics Engineer Ex-Systems engineer, Haas F1 Team.
- Ross Cassells – Experience designer Ex-Product designer, Hummingbird.
Small Robot Company has now secured £11 million in funding to date, including £9.4 million from its previous Crowdcube rounds, and £1.56 million in government Innovate UK grants. This includes an £800,000 grant for its ‘Wilma’ artificial intelligence weed recognition and ‘Tom’ weed mapping technology. This was one of the largest single agritech grants made under Innovate UK’s innovation scheme in 2018.
Industry reactions: game changing innovation
Matt Jones, Principal Designer, Google AI, and investor in Small Robot Company says: “Anything that can help change for the better the way we produce food on this planet is urgently needed,” comments. “I’m excited to invest and support the Small Robot Company team in their mission to change farming for the better with humanscale AI and robotics.”
Rob Macklin, the National Trust’s Head of Farming and Soils, comments: “Technology needs to play a big part in solving many of the issues we currently face in farming – particularly improving soil health and carbon sequestration, reducing our reliance on fossil fuel power and fertilisers and avoiding the adverse impacts of synthetic chemicals on the environment. We have started small robot trials at Wimpole and intend to extend trials to other estates in the near future.”
Dr Belinda Clarke, Director, Agri-TechE, comments: “The pace of agri-tech innovation in the last 5 years has increased rapidly in recent years and is already showing commercial impact on farms. New tech solutions are poised to make an even more dramatic contribution to increasing the efficiency, productivity and sustainability of global agriculture. Game-changing technologies, coupled with creative, effective partnerships will be key to making this a reality, and those pioneered by Small Robot Company are great examples of how this is happening in practice.”
Tom Allen-Stevens – farmer, editor of Crop Production magazine and previously Oxford Farming Conference chair, investor and SRC farmer advisory group comments: “I do seriously believe that Small Robot Company’s technology is going to deliver a step change in how we farm and how we think about farming in the future. And if you want to be part of that journey, then there’s no better way than to invest in the small robots and come along with it. Small Robot Company’s impact is still resonating out and they could have a profound impact on how this industry shapes up.”
Andrew Ward, MBE and Farmers Weekly Farming Champion, investor and SRC farmer advisory group says: “I invested because robotics and automation are going to be at the heart of agriculture. Environmental care coupled with efficient and profitable food production. We’re under pressure to use less chemistry and less inputs on the crop – applying products to 100% of a field needs to change. Robotics is the way forward. Investing will help Small Robot Company develop these robots into useful tools for our future. This is the fourth agricultural revolution.”
Will Evans, Oxford Farming Conference director, farmer and farming industry Influencer – Rock & Roll farming podcast – SRC investor and 100 Club member concludes: “I invested because I believe Small Robot Company’s vision encapsulates the future of agriculture – and the scale of opportunity is huge. We’re on the cusp of tremendous change. SRC’s tech is front and centre of the fourth agricultural revolution. And I’m impressed by the talent and tenacity of the team. They’re the ones taking farming forward.
Sam Watson Jones concludes: “The opportunity is immense. Our technology is closely aligned with the new Agricultural Bill: our technology is at the heart of these systemic changes in farming. Now is the time for us to work together to create a more sustainable farming model: and for farmers – rightly – to be rewarded for their efforts. The recent huge advances in agtech finally make this possible: and farmers are integral to the environmental solution.”
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About Small Robot Company
Small Robot Company’s mission is to maximise food production while reducing its cost on the environment. Using robotics and artificial intelligence, Small Robot Company (SRC) has created an entirely new model for ecologically harmonious, efficient and profitable farming. Our vision is to make food production sustainable.
We are a group of farmers, engineers, scientists and service designers with a deep knowledge of farming, robotics, AI and service design. We are dedicated to building technology that will make farming profitable, more efficient and more environmentally friendly. We are building a farming service designed by farmers for farmers that uses robotics and AI to deliver this vision.
Our farmbots Tom, Dick and Harry will plant, monitor and treat arable crops autonomously, with minimal waste. We are currently focused on developing non-chemical weeding to cut chemicals by up to 95%. Our no-till robotics also prevent soil erosion and run off, reducing cultivation emissions by up to 90%. Field trials are currently being conducted with 20 farmer customers including Waitrose and the National Trust. Our first commercial service for weed mapping recently launched, with weed zapping trials to follow in 2020.