Future Acres Forges New Path to Farms through New Sun World Collaboration

The autonomous ag robot platform has also raised more than $1M in equity crowdfunding.

Future Acres, which makes the “Carry” autonomous agriculture robot platform, announced today that it has entered into a collaboration with global plant breeder and licensor Sun World International. The arrangement will have Sun World testing Carry at its International Center for Innovation and promoting the technology to Sun World’s growers.

Sun World develops and licenses varietals of grapes and stone fruits to 2,000 growers across 55,000 acres around the world. Sun World will be using Carry in conjunction with a specialized wheelbarrow attachment that has weight sensors built in. When in use during harvest, once the human pickers place 150 lbs worth of grapes on the wheelbarrow, the Carry will automatically drive itself to that wheelbarrow and autonomously haul the harvested grapes to another part of the farm for further processing.

Not only will Sun World be using Future Acres on its own facility, but Sun World will in turn suggest the use of the Carry bot to its extensive list of growers around the world, basically acting like a sales funnel for Future Acres.

In today’s press announcement, Jeffrey Jackson, EVP of Sun World International said, “We’re interested in anything that improves the productivity and profitability of our licensed growers and think Carry could be a game-changing technology to not only streamline the harvesting process but exponentially improve the day-to-day lives of field workers.”

This relationship could obviously jumpstart Future Acres go-to market in a big way. “We think it’s about a $144 million dollar commercial opportunity,” Future Acres CEO Suma Reddy told me via video chat last week.

While just about every business sector is experiencing a labor shortage, the problem is particularly acute in agriculture. Farm work is hard work involving long hours, manual (and sometimes dangerous) tasks, and oftentimes extreme heat and weather conditions. This worker shortage is exacerbated by the fact that the people working farms are getting older. According to the 2017 US Census, the average age of the American farm worker was 57.5 years old.

Autonomous robots like Carry can help alleviate the worker shortages on farms by taking over tasks like hauling crops and gear around the farm (Carry can lug up to 500lbs). This frees up human workers to focus on higher-value tasks like picking or overall farm management while reducing the amount of strenuous lifting and carrying required.

There are a number of different autonomous vehicles making their way to farms right now. Like the Carry, Burro makes an eponymous self-driving vehicle meant for hauling crops and equipment. GUSS makes an autonomous crop sprayer. And Advanced Farm Technologies makes a AI-powered strawberry picker.

This deal with Sun World is actually coming at a fortuitous time for Future Acres. In addition to the staright up sales Sun World could potentially generate, it’s an excellent feather in the cap for Future Acres, which is closing out its equity crowdfunding campaign in just a couple of weeks. The startup has already raised $1 million in crowdfunding so far and the new relationship with Sun World could give Future Acres’ campaign a last-minute boost.

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