Robotics company sells warehouse tech to focus on agri

Harvest Automation has sold its warehouse robotics business to NextShift Robotics as it refocuses on developing automated technologies for agriculture.

Venture-backed Harvest Automation has sold its robotic warehouse automation technology business for an undisclosed sum to NextShift Robotics.

Backed by Mousse Partners and Cultivian Ventures, Harvest Automation will instead maintain its focus on nursery and greenhouse robotics, rather than expand into commercialising robotics with new applications, chief executive Charles Grinnell said.

“Agriculture is where we started and have found our greatest success,” he said in a statement. “The sale allows us to restructure and re-focus the company on robotic innovation to resolve important challenges facing the ag industry like labour and environmental impact.”

The company developed the recently sold-off technology to increase efficiency in processing onlineorders in the warehouse. Grinnell said the company felt the technology could be better capitalised by a company focused exclusively in the sector.

Robotics are becoming increasingly important in large-scale agriculture, helping manage larger farms without increasing labour costs.  The agricultural robotics sector is expected to grow from $3 billion in 2015 to $74 billion in 2024, a report from technology research and consulting company Tractica predicted earlier this year.

Harvest Automation raised $24.85 million across seven funding rounds between 2010 and 2013, according to CrunchBase. Mousse Partners led an $11.75 million Series C funding round for the company in October 201, and other backers include Cultivian Ventures, Entree Capital, Founder Collective, Life Sciences Partners and MassVentures. Other impressive raises in the sector include agri robotics company Blue River’s $17 million series B funding round led by Israeli biotech firm Pontifax, which should help the business develop autonomous robots to weed and thin lettuce fields.