July 2017 was a big month for robotics-related company funding. Four raised $588 million and 19 others raised $370.6 million for a monthly total of $958.6 million. Acquisitions also continued to be significant with ST Engineering acquiring Aethon for $36 million, iRobot buying its European distributor for $141 million, and SoftBank purchasing 5% of iRobot shares for around $120 million.
Sanjeev Krishnan of S2G Ventures said: “This investment shows the potential of the sector. Indoor agriculture is a real toolkit for the produce industry. There is no winner takes all potential here. I could even see some traditional, outdoor growers do indoor ag as a way to manage some of the fundamental issues of the produce industry: agronomy, logistics costs, shrinkage, freshness, seasonality and manage inventory cycles better. There are many different models that could work and we are excited about the platforms being built in the market.”
SoftBank Group Corp. Chairman and CEO Masayoshi Son said, “While building an increasingly intelligent telematics business, Nauto is also generating a highly valuable dataset for autonomous driving, at massive scale. This data will help accelerate the development and adoption of safe, effective self-driving technology.”
According to CEO Ric Fulop, “You don’t need tooling. You can make short runs of production with basically no tooling costs. You can change your design and iterate very fast. You can make shapes you couldn’t make any other way, so now you can lightweight a part and work with alloys that are very, very hard, with very extreme properties. One of the benefits for this technology for robotics is that you’re able to do lots of turns. Unless you’re iRobot with the Roomba, you’re making a lot of one-off changes to your product.”
Yong Zheng, Founder and CEO of Geek+, said, “This round of financing will help us upgrade our business in three aspects. Firstly, we will accelerate the upgrading of our logistics robotics products and expand product offerings to cover more applications.” “Secondly, we will accelerate our geographical expansion and industry coverage to provide our one-stop intelligent logistics system and operation solutions to more customers. Thirdly, we will start exploring overseas markets through multiple channels.”
“Receiving funding from these major tech companies is a clear signal that tech industry heavy-hitters understand that agriculture is ripe for digitalization. It means that such companies, which are already involved in digitizing other traditional industries, see a significant opportunity in agtech,” said Prospera CEO Daniel Koppel.
Dr. Gill Pratt, CEO of Toyota Research Institute said: “We are impressed with Intuition Robotics’ thought leadership of a multi-disciplinary approach towards a compelling product offering for older adults including: Human-Robot-Interaction, cloud robotics, machine learning, and design. Specifically, we believe Intuition Robotics’ technology, in the field of cognitive computing, has strong potential to positively impact the world’s aging population with a proactive, truly autonomous agent that’s deployed in their social robot, ElliQ.”