Bloomfield Robotics has spent 2022 growing. That doesn’t just mean the crops the agriculture tech company’s computer vision and AI technology is aiming to help farmers, breeders and scientists better understand.
Founded in 2019 as a spinout from Carnegie Mellon University, Bloomfield uses AI and custom imaging hardware to address challenges related to specialty crop growth. Since this past June, the startup has placed first Akamai Technologies’ Future of Life Online Challenge, secured international partnerships, and found a new office space to call home. Plus, CEO Mark DeSantis told Technical.ly that, should everything go according to plan, Bloomfield will have successfully raised $4 million in its latest fundraising round.
“It’s not quite closed, but we’re almost there,” DeSantis said this week. “We’re just waiting on a couple of investors who are strategic in nature, and then we will ultimately close the round here very soon. But, it’s almost complete.”
(Of note, the newest Venture Monitor report cites a $6 million raise for the company in Q2 2022. That report only filters for completed deals, per a spokesperson, though figures sometimes change in subsequent reports as Venture Monitor learns new info about existing deals.)
Following the raise, DeSantis, who also cofounded Pittsburgh AI company RoadBotics, looks forward to shifting the focus from fundraising back to other projects and engaging with customers. Additionally, because of the “strategic” investors DeSantis is courting are entities that have invested previously, finishing this round would be a sign of continued commitment and belief in the company’s mission, he said.
Investors named at the time of Bloomfield’s $1.8 million round announced in December 2021 include Japanese farm equipment company Kubota, Pax Momentum and Thrive SVG, the latter of which are accelerators that included the startup in past cohorts.
Beyond fundraising, another focus of the fall for the startup is harvesting — in some places, anyway. Harvest times for clients can vary, as Bloomfield is an agtech company with partnerships in places such as France, California, Peru and Italy which each have different climates. In the places where grapes grow, like the Keystone and Sunshine states, the company’s harvesting analysis technology is ready to be put to use, and that’s kept the company busy, DeSantis said. In the future, the goal is to branch out to other climates, particularly the ones that yield blueberries.
“One of the strategies of our company is not just to be in the Northern Hemisphere but really, to be a year-round business,” the CEO said. “And to do that you want to have customers in the Southern Hemisphere. So that’s pretty exciting. And [we] call it Project Blueberry.”
Bloomfield got a new address in September when it went from a coworking space to an office in Lawrenceville. DeSantis called the move a necessary change to accommodate the company’s growing staff, currently totaling 18. Locally, the startup has 13 employees consisting of AI engineers, hardware engineers and plant experts, with its other workers are based across the country and internationally.
Still, with the name, the recently acquired HQ and the desire to keep proximity to CMU where its roots are, DeSantis said Bloomfield Robotics will always be a Pittsburgh company.
“We’re very Pittsburgh focused. We have offices in France and Northern California, and they do a great job engaging locally with our customers. After all, there’s a lot of grapes in California and for and so you want to have a presence there,” DeSantis said. “But it’s our intention to keep the main focus and most of the staff in Pittsburgh.”Atiya Irvin-Mitchell is a 2022-2023 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.
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