IRVINE, CALIF. (October 27, 2021) – On the heels of closing a $10.9 million Series A round of funding, Burro CEO Charlie Andersen said his company is set to meet the needs of growers – even as those needs are constantly changing and close to impossible to predict.
In the most recent episode of Voices of the Valley, the podcast hosted by Dennis Donohue, the Director of Western Growers Center for Innovation & Technology, and Candace Wilson, VP of Business Development at GreenVenus, Andersen, who grew up on a working farm, outlined the cultural differences between growers and technologists.
“Growers versus technologists are two very distinctly different worlds,” he said. “People that grow up on a farm, they know how to hustle. They are reacting on the fly to something. Things are outside of their control but they have to make it happen regardless. People in the technology domain tend to get focused on the hardest problems. In our case, we have both of those perspectives within our team – and there can be tension between the two viewpoints, for sure – but that leads to a product that is farm-compatible but still very technology-driven.”
Burro, which won the AgSharks competition sponsored by S2G Ventures and Western Growers in 2018, is “Disney’s Wall-E in a 1.0 format for agriculture,” Andersen said, an autonomous cart that can be used to haul crops like table grapes, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and nursery crops out from the field. And as long as the company iterates to meet the need of its customers, the future of robotics in agtech is almost unlimited, he said.
“Building robots to go out into the world is really, really, really hard,” Andersen said. “You have to build a lot, you have to fail a lot. Separately, people are really, really, really good at doing a lot of flexible stuff on the fly in unstructured outdoor areas…our company thesis has been, for one, technology is all about the people. You’re not going to have fields with nobody in them whatsoever and just robots operating in in quiet. We’re a long way from that. If we think that in 20-30 years we’re going to have robots do most tasks, the question becomes: How do you start with something functional today and build towards that world?”
Voices of the Valley is produced by Western Growers and its Center for Innovation & Technology. The embed code for this week’s episode is below:
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