Feb 1, 2021
Tevel raises $20M for its flying fruit-picking robots

Tevel Aerobotics Technologies, which is developing autonomous flying robots that can pick fruit, has raised $20 million in fresh funding.

According to a story by AgFunder News, among the investors in this round were two major Asian ag equipment manufacturers: Japan’s Kubota and China’s Forbon. Participating alongside them were a host of VC firms including Maverick Ventures Israel, its compatriot OurCrowd, and U.S.-based AgFunder.

Ziv Aviram – co-founder of self-driving car startup Mobileye, which was acquired by Intel for $15.3 billion in 2017 — and Amichai Steimberg, former CEO of electronics manufacturer Orbotech, also invested.

Tevel Aerobotics Technologies has designed a system of small, interconnected drones that can harvest orchard-grown fruits and carry out other tasks, such as pruning, trimming, and thinning that would typically require human labor.

That labor is in increasingly short supply, with the UN’s Food & Agriculture Organization estimating the availability of orchard workers to have dropped by 50% over the past two decades – while agricultural fruit output has doubled over the same period.

“Farmers are struggling today with recruiting fruit pickers, a situation that puts the whole industry at risk,” said Tevel founder and CEO Yaniv Maor.

“The situation in orchards is worse than in greenhouses, for a few reasons. Fruit season in the orchard is shorter than for greenhouses and orchards are mostly located in remote villages [where] the local labor is not available, and the imported labor is not sufficient,” he told AFN.

“Tevel supplies autonomous harvesting on demand – anytime, anywhere, any capacity. Our flying robots gently pick the fruit without bruising it [and] they almost don’t leave any fruit on the trees.”

AgFunder News also reported:

Looking a little like something out of War of the Worlds or Doctor Who, Tevel’s solution – named Flying Autonomous Robot (FAR) — is a mobile hive of drones, each equipped with a meter-long mechanical claw and AI-powered ‘eyes.’

Beyond picking, this potentially allows FAR to perform “any intensive selective task that requires accuracy,” Moav said.

“Our robots have excellent maneuverability – they can maneuver with six degrees of freedom. This enables us to pick almost all the fruit from trees, work with different orchard architecture – such as thick and thin trees, trellis systems, and round trees –and to pick many kinds of fruit with the same hardware.”

Tevel’s Wellsian creations also offer farmers the prospect of growing taller trees, as they can overcome “the limiting factor to access treetops,” Moav claimed.

“This can bring extra 10% to 20% of fruit to the same farm – which is not only more revenue, but extra profit to the farm.”

Tevel will use this latest funding to complete product validation, commence production, and launch its commercial service.

To view the entire AgFunder News story, visit here.

Photos: Tevel


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