August 10, 2016      

Food for thought: “10 – 12 billion apples are harvested in Washington State each year. Each Washington apple is picked by hand. There are no harvest machines to pick apples.”
Crop Facts, Washington State

“Given that we must produce more food in the next forty years than during the entire course of human history to date … AgTech innovations will be absolutely essential.”
Kauffman Foundation, 2014

“Now, SRI Ventures, a kind of startup incubator within the Menlo Park research and development firm SRI International, is investing in and spinning out a startup called Abundant Robotics Inc. to automate apple harvesting with agricultural robots currently in development.

“The robots, as yet unnamed, were designed to be strong and fast enough to remove one fruit per second from a tree, but gentle enough not to damage trees or the fruit, according to Abundant Robotics’ CEO and co-founder Dan Steere.” TechCrunch

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Disrupting the Apple Cart: Abundant Robotics to Automate Orchard Harvests

Leading-Edge AgTech Company Leverages Technology from SRI International to Make Nutritious Food More Accessible

MENLO PARK, Calif. – August 10, 2016 –SRI International today announced the spin-out and launch of Abundant Robotics, an agriculture technology company focused on helping make nutritious foods such as apples and other tree

Still from SRI video showing autonomous, vacuum robotic apple picker (2016).

fruits more accessible. Abundant will commercialize and build on several years of successful research initiatives in agricultural robotics at SRI.

“While orchard yields have significantly improved over the last two decades, labor productivity has not,” said Dan Steere, CEO of Abundant Robotics. “Our goal is to deliver robotic systems to ease the hardest jobs in agriculture. The first automated apple harvesting system that doesn’t bruise or damage the produce will be a huge breakthrough in an industry that has been dependent on the challenges of seasonal labor.”

Abundant Robotics’ initial prototype is designed with technology from SRI to enable automation of apple harvesting. Future development may address other produce and steps in the production process.

“Bringing automation to orchard agriculture is an important step in addressing nutritional demands and making high-quality fruit available to a growing population,” said Manish Kothari, Ph.D., president of SRI Ventures at SRI International. “SRI is proud to be a part of this major agtech breakthrough.”

Abundant Robotics co-founders Curt Salisbury, Michael Eriksen, and Dan Steere share early backgrounds in agriculture. Recognizing the opportunity for farming innovation they joined together while at SRI to apply leading-edge robotics expertise to agricultural production. Salisbury was a leader in SRI’s robotics group and Eriksen, a software architect, was a key collaborator. Steere initially served as an entrepreneur in residence at SRI Ventures, advising Abundant Robotics before leading the venture full-time.

Backed by research funding from the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission and SRI, Abundant Robotics has closed its initial investment round.

About Abundant Robotics:

Abundant Robotics mission is to deliver robotic solutions for the hardest jobs in agriculture. Based in California, we are global experts in our fields, love solving important problems, and are passionate about building great products. Growers worldwide are grappling with urgent problems, including rising standards for high-quality produce and scarcity of agricultural labor. Abundant is currently preparing its first solution, automating apple harvest.

About SRI International:

SRI International creates world-changing solutions making people safer, healthier, and more productive. SRI, a research center headquartered in Menlo Park, California, works primarily in advanced technology and systems, biosciences, computing, and education. SRI brings its innovations to the marketplace through technology licensing, spin-off ventures and new product solutions.