Startups
Robotics / Venture capital

South Philly agtech startup Augean Robotics raises $1.5M

The makers of a curious farming robot called Burro have plans to scale up. Here's why founder Charlie Andersen thinks Philly "should be a huge hotbed for autonomy startups."

The Burro team at NextFab in 2019. (Courtesy photo)

NextFab-based Augean Robotics, makers of a full-stack robotics platform for the farming industry, just raised a $1.5 million seed round to grow its staff and scale the deployment of its technology.

The company, which makes an autonomous, collaborative farming robot called Burro, raised some initial cash as part of its participation in the RAPID accelerator, but this is its first formal venture capital round.

Founded in 2017, the company tapped an interesting mix of investors for its seed round. The lead backer is New York-based ff Venture Capital, a traditional tech-focused VC firm that has backed companies such as Indiegogo and Content.ly. But it also got backing from Chicago-based S2G Ventures and San Diego-based Radicle Growth, both investors in the agriculture and food business. Locally, Ben Franklin Technology Partners also joined the round.

Founder and CEO Charlie Andersen, a Harvard MBA grad who grew up on a 191-acre farm in Chester County, said the round will go towards beefing up staff at the six-person team and scaling up its market presence.

“We’re a full-stack company, which in robotics means that we offer hardware, software and data,” Andersen said. “Our platform today is running as a service in some of the largest specialty crops. We’re emigrating from deploying  a small number of units to selling a fleet of robots as a service to anyone not just our pilot clients.”

Watch the enterprising lil’ Burro robot follow raspberry pickers in Somis, Calif.:

Andersen, the only non-engineer in his team, is puzzled as to why Philly — perhaps more known in the national stage for its life sciences or B2B software achievements — hasn’t grown as much in the realm of autonomy startups.

“Philly is one of the most incredible cities to build robotics companies,” said Andersen. “I believe this area should be a huge hotbed for autonomy startups.”

What will it take? What could the catalyst be for an uptick of companies like Augean or COSY or Ghost Robotics?

“I think the industry needs one or two big wins,” Andersen said. “And that’s exactly what we would like to be.”

Companies: Ghost Robotics / Burro / COSY / NextFab

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