+36 70 203-3120 | agrowebsystem@gmail.com | Blog | Contact

Will the fundamental changes be enough for Abundant Robots?

  • 271

When Abundant Robotics, an agricultural robotics company, closed in mid-2021, it cited a lack of funding and market traction as its two main challenges. But that didn’t deter product development incubator Wavemaker Labs, which bought Abundant Robotics’ intellectual property (IP) for an undisclosed sum in October 2021.

Wavemaker Labs has now relaunched the company as Abundant Robots. And in addition to management, it is discussing some fundamental changes to ensure that this iteration of the fruit-picking robotics company survives. No employees from the shuttered company have yet joined the new team, though Wavemaker is in communication with some of the former founders.

Abundant, which spun off from SRI International in 2015, is developing a harvesting robot that will initially target apples. The robot will combine computer vision and a vacuum end-effector to suck ripe apples off the tree.

Wavemaker Labs founder and CEO Buck Jordan shared some reasons why he thinks things will be different this time around.

Improving picking skills

Jordan wants to improve customer return on investment (ROI). One way to do this is to improve the system’s picking capabilities. Jordan says the technology could be expanded to other fruit trees, including peaches and pears, over time to increase the system’s utilization.

The team also plans to improve the system’s picking rate. The system currently picks an apple every 1.5 seconds. Jordan said the team is working to reduce the picking time to one apple per second.

Reducing the picking time will increase throughput, Jordan said.

Design for manufacturability

Abundant’s robot is being redesigned for manufacturability. Jordan said the cost of the system can easily be reduced to under $100,000 without sacrificing performance.

The previous team chose the most expensive option every time when building a prototype, Jordan said. This is a very common pitfall in robotics. If you took apart the previous bill of materials, you would find the Porsche of engines.

Jordan also said the previous team spent a lot of time and effort building additional technologies, such as autonomy, that are now readily available.

The previous team built great technology. The harvesting method and computer vision are incredibly valuable,” Jordan said. We’ve been approached by companies who wanted to buy it. With the prototype, they’ve gotten past the question of does it work. Now it’s time to bring the cost down. It’s a shame they didn’t succeed.

Jordan says the new prototype robot could be ready by mid to late 2023. If it is commercialized, Jordan says it will likely be under a robots-as-a-service (RaaS) model, given the limited timeframes for harvesting apples around the world.

Market Outlook

Abundant is raising up to $20 million in seed capital (at a $40 million valuation) through the WAX equity funding site. The acquisition also enhanced Wavemaker’s agtech portfolio, which includes Future Acres. Future Acres is developing a mobile robot called Carry, which can deliver up to 500 pounds of crop on the farm.

Future Acres plans to integrate Abundant’s computer vision and vacuum-based end-effects technology into Carry, which currently lacks manipulation capabilities. Suma Reddy, CEO of Future Acres, appeared on The Robot Report podcast in March 2021 to discuss the challenges farmers face today and how automation can help.

There’s not much competition in the field of apple picking robots. FFRobotics and Tevel are two Israeli companies that come to mind. Tevel won the RBR50 Robotics Innovation Award in 2021 for its tethered drone that picks ripe apples from trees.

Jordan said the laborious harvesting process accounts for a large part of the price of apples.

This is an important company for the world, he said. There has been a lot of wonderful work done by Abundant Robotics. Let’s pick up the torch and keep working.

Format: https://www.therobotreport.com/will-core-changes-be-enough-for-abundant-robots/