Augean Robotics Inc., which does business as Burro, today announced that it has closed a $24 million Series B round. The Philadelphia-based company said it plans to expand its commercial, product, and engineering teams. It also plans to add more dealers and launch new products in response to customer demand, starting with the Burro Grande vehicle.
“The No. 1 challenge facing our global food-supply system — and incidentally the world’s largest industry, agriculture — is labor scarcity,” according to Burro. “While robotics has been successfully used indoors for years, Burro is the first collaborative robotic platform to work safely and reliably outdoors alongside human workers. This enables customers to increase workforce efficiency within one year of investment.”
“Robots have long been stuck in warehouses and factories, and few robotics companies have successfully scaled outdoors into industries like agriculture, nurseries, and construction, where trillions of dollars are spent annually on labor,” said Charlie Andersen, CEO of Burro, in a release. “We have built a world-class product based upon state-of-the-art autonomous AI technology, and with this funding, we will deliver solutions for real-world problems, distributed worldwide through our network of dealers.”
Burro builds heavy-duty Burro Grande
Founded in 2017, Burro said it designed its outdoor mobility platforms to help customers address a shrinking workforce and rising wages. The Philadelphia-based company boasted that more than 300 of its harvest-assist robots autonomously tow trailers, patrol depot yards, carry goods, and mow. They also serve as a platform and physical application programming interface (API) for a growing number of technology partners, it said.
“Burros can be described as ‘Disney’s Wall-E for agriculture and work outdoors,’ in a 1.0 format,” said Burro. The pallet-scale autonomous ground vehicles are in commercial use in nurseries, orchards, vineyards, and other sites, it added.
The mobile robots have operated for more than 300,000 hours and over 75,000 autonomous miles (112,654 km) in the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and South America, noted Burro. The company said it is on track to expand in the U.S. berry and grape farming market, as the overall outdoor U.S. labor market is worth $1.2 trillion.
Burro said it plans to expand into new regions and continue enhancing its robots’ reliability and scalability. The Burro Grande will expand “beyond people-scale,” which the company described as less-than 500 lb. (226.7 kg) payload or light-duty towing, to a 1,500 lb. (680.3 kg) payload or 5,000 lb. (2,267.9 kg) towing capacity.
The new vehicle will also include Burro Operation System Software (BOSS) v5.0, which includes lidar-based localization for autonomous movement indoors or outdoors, said Burro.
Investors support collaborative automation
Catalyst Investors and Translink Capital co-led Burro’s Series B funding. Existing investors including S2G Ventures, Toyota Ventures, F-Prime Capital, and Cibus Capital LLP also participated. Past investors include ff Venture Capital, Xplorer, and Radicle.
“With the incredible teams at Catalyst Investors and Translink Capital, and their strong track records of growing businesses, we are well on our way,” said Andersen.
As part of the round, Brian Rich, managing partner at Catalyst Investors, and Kaz Kikuchi, a partner at Translink Capital, will join the company’s board.
“What sets Burro apart among the robotics sector is the team’s brilliant vision for augmenting – not replacing – labor with machines that work safely and reliably outdoors alongside humans, exponentially increasing efficiency and production,” said Rich. “The Burro approach is already proven and its ROI [return on investment] demonstrated for farms and nurseries, perfectly positioning them to become the dominant outdoor robotics company for various industries and uses.”
New York-based Catalyst Investors has invested in rapidly growing technology companies over the past 20-plus years. The growth equity firm said it has established a successful track record of partnering with entrepreneurs and helping startups scale.
“At Translink, we really like companies in the autonomy and robotics sector,” said Kikuchi. “We are especially excited about how Burro has brought automation to the agriculture sector.”
“With their unique approach, Burros can work year-round, combatting the innate seasonality of work outdoors, by operating in a variety of crops and performing multiple tasks with one platform,” he said. “Burro is positioned to be the first robotic company to successfully scale in agriculture and other outdoor environments.”
Founded in 2006, Translink Capital invests in early-stage startups in the consumer, enterprise, and robotics sectors. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based venture capital firm said it has more than $1 billion of assets under management.