One of Pittsburgh’s prominent agricultural tech startups just nabbed another million.
This morning, Cambridge-based cloud tech firm Akamai Technologies announced that the winner of its Future of Life Online Challenge was Bloomfield Robotics, and that it had awarded the South Side agricultural tech startup with $1 million in Akamai products and services.
The competition was initially announced in November 2021 as a way to celebrate and reward “the visionaries, the rebels and the insanely curious innovators” creating new online experiences. Bloomfield is one of four companies that received the $1 million award, which includes winnings of Akamai security, content delivery and edge compute solutions.
Akamai said it chose Bloomfield Robotics as one of the winners because of the company’s unique use of AI and custom imaging hardware to address challenges related to specialty crop growth. It’s not the first prominent organization to notice the fast-growing Pittsburgh startup: Last year, Bloomfield completed SVG Ventures’ prestigious THRIVE accelerator, where it won the Innovation Icon Award. It also received $1.8 million in funding from Japanese farm equipment company Kubota, along with Pax Momentum and Thrive SVG.
“Bloomfield is at the bleeding edge of crop digitization, an exciting convergence of big data and artificial intelligence,” said Akamai CMO Kim Salem-Jackson (who was also one of the challenge judges) in a statement. “Among so many extraordinary submissions for the $1 million Future of Life Online Challenge, Bloomfield stood out as a company with values and aspirations that aligned directly with Akamai’s purpose to make life better for billions of people billions of times a day. Bloomfield represents the best of the entrepreneurial spirit and Akamai couldn’t be more excited to help the company grow and fuel positive change in helping deliver better food to consumer tables around the world.”
In addition to receiving new funding and resources from Akamai, Bloomfield was also featured in a four-part docuseries that followed the startup through the entire competition process. That video, which also follows other finalists in the competition, debuted today.
“Winning the Akamai Future of Life Online Challenge gives Bloomfield access to world-class technology and expertise that will immediately help us scale and better secure our business,” Bloomfield Robotics CEO and 2022 RealLIST Connectors honoree Mark DeSantis said in a statement. “It also affords us leeway to experiment with new capabilities and resources in ways that many companies at this stage simply don’t have the luxury of doing. Bloomfield is honored to win the challenge and we’re even more excited to work with Akamai to help improve crop performance from seed to harvest.”
DeSantis elaborated on that in an email to Technical.ly, saying that this win from Akamai will enable “continued development of our service offering as well as preparation of a significant increase in our customer base for next year.” Specifically, he added that Bloomfield hopes to use edge computing capabilities provided by Akamai to pre-process and deliver imaging data from its cameras at a faster rate. The startup also wants to implement data security measures to the process and improve its cloud computing operations using Akamai’s technology.
Right now, DeSantis said Bloomfield has 16 full-time employees, with its headquarters in Pittsburgh, an office in Napa, California, and an office in Burgundy, France to support its customers in those regions. In total, Bloomfield currently has 18 customers across wine, table and juice grapes as well as blueberries. But DeSantis noted that several of the startup’s customers have a wide variety of crops beyond those they currently use Bloomfield’s tech for — including Oppy, which is a subsidiary of Dole. The startup plans to expand into those additional crops in the future.
Looking ahead to the second half of 2022, DeSantis told Technical.ly that Bloomfield will continue riding its funding momentum from the past year and expanding on existing and new partnerships.
Sophie Burkholder is a 2021-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments.