07 Sep 2021
Seattle company has developed self-driving vehicle that blasts weeds with 150W CO2 lasers.
US startup Carbon Robotics says it has closed a series B round of venture financing that will be used to scale production of an automated vehicle equipped with lasers to destroy weeds.
The Seattle firm, founded in 2018 by CEO Paul Mikesell, says that its combination of high-resolution cameras, artificial intelligence, and carbon dioxide lasers is able to destroy weeds without damaging valuable crops.
The approach is also claimed to remove the need for herbicide chemicals and tilling of the soil.
“Laser weeding works day or night, in all weather conditions,” states the firm on its web site. “It’s a high-precision solution that improves crop yield and reduces overall costs associated with modern farming.
“Our high-resolution cameras feed imagery in real time to an on-board supercomputer that runs computer vision models to identify crops and weeds. High-powered lasers then kill weeds at the meristem.”
The Carbon Robotics Autonomous Weeder product is a robotic vehicle based around eight modules, each featuring a 150 W carbon dioxide laser that is able to destroy weeds thermally. The vehicle, which also uses lidar to help navigate around obstacles, moves at 5 mph and is said to be able to cover up to 20 acres each day.
“This investment further validates our mission to create tools that utilize technology to address farmers’ toughest problems,” said founder Mikesell. “Weeding is one of the biggest challenges farmers face, especially with the rise of herbicide-resistant weeds and increasing interest in organic and regenerative methods.
“This round of investment will enable us to scale our operations to meet the increasing demand for this technology. Additionally, this funding will allow our team to continue to innovate new products and identify revolutionary ways to apply technology to agriculture.”
Having launched the robotic laser weeder earlier this year, Carbon Robotics says it has already secured bookings exceeding $20 million from farms across the US, creating a huge backlog of orders.
“Carbon Robotics has sold out of its 2021 and 2022 models and has begun accepting orders for 2023,” claims the firm.
The latest round of financing, supported by Anthos Capital, Ignition Partners, Fuse Venture Capital, Voyager Capital, Bolt, and Liquid2 Ventures, brings total funding in the company to $36 million.
Erik Benson, managing director of Voyager Capital, said: “Carbon Robotics is fundamentally changing how farmers weed fields and has the potential to be this millennium’s Deere & Company.”
The firm has also hired a new strategic sales advisor to help it expand, and to scale distribution of the Autonomous Weeders amid the booming demand.
Another significant effort to develop laser weeding technology is taking place in Europe, where Laser Zentrum Hannover (LZH) and German firm Futonics Laser are among the participants in the EU-funded “WeLASER” project.
LZH is also working with two farmers in the Hannover region to refine its own technique, as part of a project aimed at eliminating the use of pesticides and herbicides in farming.