Agriculture has been revolutionized by technology throughout its long history, and this trend continues to drive progress today. Among the latest advancements, an innovative startup from Israel called Bluewhite has received a whopping $39 million in funding to propel their contribution to the field: autonomous robots that can be attached to any tractor, effectively rendering it autonomous. What sets them apart from other companies is their unique approach of offering Robots-as-a-Service, rather than just selling their technology as a one-time product.
The startup plans to utilize the funding for further research and development, with a focus on expanding their data capabilities through their service stack (branded “Compass”), as well as enhancing their autonomous hardware technology (branded “Pathfinder”). This technology is currently versatile enough to be programmed for use on various field types and vehicles, with Bluewhite taking charge of the entire stack.
Their current technology employs not only AI and computer vision on the hardware side, but also AI-based algorithms to understand the field data (branded “seen”) and big data analytics to provide customers with helpful insights through dashboards, improving their understanding of their crops.
The funding will also enable Bluewhite to continue growing in their current markets, as well as explore new territories. So far, their tractor robots have had the strongest impact in the U.S., particularly in states like California and Washington. Their customers range from small family farms to 20 of the largest “permanent” (year-round) crop growers in the country. In total, their robots have covered an impressive 50,000 hours of autonomous farming across 150,000 acres.
This Series C funding round values the company between $200 million and $300 million post-money, a significant increase from the $130 million it was valued at during their last round in 2021. Leading the round is Insight Partners, with new investors Alumni Ventures and LIP Ventures, and previous investors Entrée Capital, Jesselson, and Peregrine Ventures also participating, alongside undisclosed investors.
“Our goal,” said CEO and co-founder Ben Alfie, “is to address one of the major gaps in the agriculture industry today – the shortage of people willing to work in it to meet market demands. We plan to do this by improving working conditions for those who do work in agriculture, without requiring customers to replace their existing assets.”
“Labor, labor, labor – it’s the biggest need,” Alfie said in an interview. However, the costs of running a farm extended beyond just labor. “We want to maximize the value of the assets people already have,” he emphasized. According to Alfie, the average annual cost of operating a legacy tractor is around $100,000 when factoring in maintenance, fuel, and other associated expenses. While some farmers are gradually incorporating newer and more cost-effective equipment, the replacement rate is generally low, averaging at about 10% even for the most successful agribusinesses. Bluewhite offers a solution designed to address these economic realities of farming. The installation process takes just one day, with the company describing it as an “IKEA kit” shipped to a local service center for fitting, which reduces downtime for the vehicle. Customers typically take up the service on a five-year contract. Tractors that have been fitted with Bluewhite’s robots can still be operated by humans in certain scenarios where manual control is necessary.
Bluewhite is part of a larger trend of startups and major agricultural equipment companies exploring the potential of incorporating technological progress into farming to boost efficiency and meet current challenges such as labor shortages, climate change, and increased demand for affordable food. Other companies in the same space include Farm-ng, Growmark, Aigen, Monarch, and Iron Ox – each providing their unique take on robotic farming. Alphabet-owned Mineral.ai appears to be focusing on data science and its implications for the field.
However, tractors, in particular, show extremely promising prospects. Bluewhite cites projections from researchers predicting a market worth $11.5 billion for autonomous tractors by 2030.
“In these challenging times, we are thrilled to witness Bluewhite defy expectations and successfully deploy their solution, while also securing this next round of funding to further scale,” said Daniel Aronovitz, a principal at Insight Partners, in a statement. “Their unmatched autonomous technology, coupled with an incredible team, sets them apart from the competition, and we are excited to partner with them as they enter this crucial next phase.” Aronovitz is now a board member at Bluewhite.