Harvest CROO Robotics (HCR) was founded in 2013 by strawberry grower, Gary Wishnatzki, and robotic engineer, Robert Pitzer, with the intention to develop robotics for agriculture. The company is based in central Florida.
The first strawberry picker prototype was built in the fall of 2013 for proof of concept and to have something to demonstrate to potential investors. One million dollars was raised in the first funding round in 2014. After hitting several milestones, we are in our second funding round now to raise an additional $1.5 million. Currently, investors include eight that are affiliated to the strawberry industry, as well as five that are not. Our grower-investors recognize, firsthand, the need for robotics at the farm. We are taking a collaborative approach by drawing on resources across the robotic community as well from agriculture, machine manufacturers, packaging companies, GPS companies, and other related industries.
The business model is to lease machines to growers on a per box basis to emulate how they do business now, which is to pay humans a piece-rate. The objectives are to make the buy” decision easier for the grower and to create an on-going revenue stream for HCR.
We have applied for a U.S. utility patent
Gary Wishnatzki, Co-Founder
Bob Pitzer, Co-Founder
# of Employees
Problem Your Company/Products Solve
There is over $750 million spent annually on labor to harvest strawberries in the U.S. With increasing frequency, growers must let their ripe crops rot in the field because they cannot find the labor to harvest it.The increasing harvest labor shortage is a problem that must eventually be solved by automating the harvesting process. Several organizations are working on a solution. However, all of the known potential competitors are developing machines that would require growers to radically change the way they grow strawberries. Other systems under development would require growers to grow in expensive greenhouses or change their bed configurations to single plant rows to force the fruit to hang off the side of the bed. Based on our experience, we believe that growers will only adopt these expensive methods if prices for fruit and labor costs both become substantially higher.
Harvest CROO is taking a different approach that mimics the way the best human harvesters work. Using our machines will require very little modification to how farmers grow strawberries.
Key future advantages of our invention include:
- Lower harvest costs
- Set harvest rate that will not fluctuate
- Eliminate rejections due to being short weight by weighing packages of berries
- Increase yields by eliminating over packs by weighing packages of berries
- Work at least 20 hours per day, including weekends
- Avoid picking during the hottest part of the day when berries bruise the easiest
- Allow for better utilization of cooling facilities and increase throughput by spreading out the load of warm incoming fruit
- Forecasting production both short & long term to assist marketers in selling the crop
- Reduce the usage of plastic by over 30% by using a film lid versus a clamshell pack
- Scout fields and pinpoint problems before they spread, thus reducing pesticide usage
Strawberry growers, agricultural industry