November 2020

Ecorobotix: simplifying farmers’ lives with smart, solar-powered robots

Ecorobotix is a Swiss startup operating in precision agriculture. Based in Yverdon (Canton of Vaud), the company has developed a weed-killing robot powered by solar energy. 

The company, which is testing several prototypes, plans to launch its first product on the market next year. Ecorobotix, which employs 35 people, is therefore preparing for an essential step in 2021, despite the difficult economic context. Three questions to its founder and CEO, Aurélien Demaurex.

SFNV: You are going through very busy months, with the launch of your AVO robot, but also with the presentation of a new product between now and then?

Aurélien Demaurex: It has been indeed really busy months from our side. We passed an important milestone during the summer 2019 with the validation of our deep learning recognition algorithms. This ability to recognize and to act with high precision is truly the core of ecoRobotix technology. Since then, and based on this key technology, we have developed AVO, our autonomous weeding robot and a brand new product that will be officially presented by the end of the year. It wasn’t easy too, as we are highly depend on seasons and weather conditions to conduct tests and demos. If you add the COVID constraint on top of this, it makes the exercise even more complicated. But retrospectively, thanks to a great team work, we overpassed these difficulties and achieved our ambitious objectives. I am really proud of my team’s work and thankful for the dedication of each of my colleagues.

 

Competition is strong in the area, with the arrival of GAFA, like Google… What is the competitive advantage of Ecorobotix? 

A.D : Generally speaking, having competition is a good sign, confirming there is a market. On top of this, having such large groups interested by agriculture is really great. It highlights the importance of the sector and boosts the whole industry. Hopefully, it not the kind of market where the winner takes it all, like Facebook or Airbnb. Farming machines industry is closer to the automobile market where you have quite a large number of competitors -of different size- “sharing” this market.

What we are developing takes a lot of time as we work with nature and seasons. You can’t just pull plants to make them grow faster. And I can understand that it can be seen as a weakness compared to other industries. On the other hand, it is a great entry-barrier, as you can’t catch-up by just adding a lot of resources. Building plants databases to train algorithms takes time, testing in fields with real plants takes time, etc. We were among the first working on these technologies, and we still invest a lot of our resources to keep this leadership.  

 
A financing round is underway (Series B), how are things going in the current crisis context? 

A.D : It has been honestly more complicated than we thought. Since March, we have seen a clear shift in the investor community, putting on hold potential investments outside their companies portfolio. As we were supposed to launch our fundraising at that time, we decided to postpone it for a couple of months and to focus on continental investors, for practical travel reasons. Our chance is to have already great investors on board our adventure, who supported us during this more complicated times.


We are currently closing this Series B round, but we are of course still interested to welcome one or two new investors in a potential second closing. My CFO colleague Frank will be more than happy to discuss with them: frank.starrman (@) ecorobotix.com

 

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