Blue River Technology, an 18-month-old start-up out of Sunnyvale, California, today announced it has raised $3.1 million in Series A funding led by Khosla Ventures. Steve Blank, author of “The Startup Owner’s Manual,” Ulu Ventures, and Stanford Angels and Entrepreneurs also joined the round.
In addition, Ryan Kottenstette of Khosla Ventures has joined the company’s board of directors. Founded in 2011 by two Stanford University Alumni, Blue River Technology is developing an alternative to chemical-intensive agriculture. Utilizing advanced machine vision algorithms for identifying weeds, the autonomous system selectively kills unwanted plants, without excessive use of harmful herbicides.
Khosla Ventures founder Vinod Khosla claims that Blue River’s technology can reduce herbicide use in the U.S. by 250 million pounds a year.
The company’s first prototype is for lettuce crops. Blue River analyzed nearly one million photographs of lettuce to learn how to recognize the plant. Its prototype device has both a camera and a killing mechanism three inches behind. So when the camera recognizes a plant that’s not supposed to be in a lettuce field, a mechanical knife cuts it out or herbicide sprays down.
“We intend to invest the proceeds of this round in growing our engineering team and accelerating our new product roadmap,” said Jorge Heraud, co-founder and CEO of Blue River Technology.
“Our culture fosters extreme innovation aimed at real-world problems. We are looking for passionate engineers to advance the boundaries of computer vision, machine learning and robotics and help us reinvent food production. ”
“With global population expected to increase to 9.5 billion by 2050, increasing food production in a sustainable way is going to be one of the great challenges of this century,” said Vinod Khosla, founder of Khosla Ventures.
Blue River Technology’s founders bring significant experience in technical agriculture, robotics, computer vision and machine learning. Heraud previously served in several executive roles with Trimble Navigation Ltd.’s Agriculture group, where he brought over 20 high technology products to the agricultural market, including GPS-based automatic guidance products, spray control products, agricultural displays and others. CTO Lee Redden’s expertise includes robotics research at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Stanford University, and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.