Startups

Philly-based robotics company Burro is joining John Deere’s agtech accelerator

CEO Charlie Andersen said he's looking forward to seeing where the company's autonomous, collaborative robotics technology could be applied beyond farms.

Some of the Burro team with their autonomous robots in 2021.

(Courtesy photo)

When Burro changed its name last year from Augean Robotics, CEO Charlie Andersen said the rebrand fell more in line with iconic agricultural brands that use an animal for their names like Deere and Bobcat. A few months after that name change and a $11 million Series A, Burro will actually be participating in an accelerator with one of those huge brand names.

Starting this week, the NextFab-based company is one of seven in John Deere’s 2022 Startup Collaborator program. It’s the third year of the program, and Andersen said Burro was sought out by the corporation this past fall.

The five-year-old Philly company makes an autonomous, collaborative robot called Burro, which assists with farming as field labor workforces have shrunk in recent years. In 2021, it had about 100 robots in the fields, and Andersen anticipates about three times as many deployed this year. Deere’s yearlong program enables startups to test innovative technologies with customers and dealers without a more formal business relationship.

“We have always admired Deere, and they’re trying to figure out how autonomy works in the space,” Andersen said. “If you’re a large manufacturer of people-driven equipment, it’s logical that you would have an interest in companies like ours.”

Andersen said the team is hoping the accelerator will help Burro reach new geographic markets and refine its technology for other use cases. While the machine is currently used to collect and transport crops around fields, they believe there are other applications. A customer recently said they intended to use the machines for anti-theft reasons, for instance.

“It’s sort of like selling an instrument only expecting people to play classical music and all the sudden, they’re playing ska,” Andersen said.

Since raising the Series A last September, the team has expanded from 22 to 30 people, and they have plans to move into a space on 7th Street near Callowhill soon: “As we’ve gotten to a certain scale, we just kind of need our own office,” Andersen said, as some of the team’s work includes testing out the larger-scale robotics.

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The accelerator kicks off this week, but later in the year will participate in trade shows and a few technical commercial projects. In general, the CEO said he’s looking forward to widening Burro’s connections and seeing how else the product could be used.

“We built this little thing — it’s not a tractor, it’s a little vehicle that works alongside people,” he said, “and I think Deere sees that something that starts small could be really interesting, commercially, in some way.”

Companies: Burro
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