AppHarvest acquires agriculture robotics startup Root AI

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Root AI has raised $7.2M for its produce harvesting robot.
Image: Root AI

As the world’s population grows, the need for more efficient food production is rising. Of course, there is only so much land that can be used for farming and agriculture. Technology is helping solve that problem by giving farmers ways to increase their crop yields, use less resources, and save money in their operations.

Root AI has been making waves in the agriculture tech sector since it was founded. It offers robots that autonomously tend to crops, performing tasks like watering and harvesting. Now, the startup has been acquired by AppHarvest, an indoor farming company. The duo announced the deal in a press release on Thursday.

In Sync

Both Root AI and AppHarvest share a similar mission—to make agriculture more efficient by using technology. Although the two have gone about things in different ways, that common goal should make the acquisition process rather smooth.

As robotics within the agriculture world have gotten an extra boost thanks to COVID-19, Root AI has been a beneficiary. The startup has raised nearly $10 million in funding to date. Most investors are interested in its Virgo robotic harvesting system. Last August, The Burn-In covered its $7.2 million seed round.

On the other hand, AppHarvest has primarily been focused on using artificial intelligence (AI) to gather actionable data within the agriculture world. In a statement, the company’s founder, CEO Jonathan Webb, said, “Farming as we’ve known it is broken because of the increasing number of variables such as extreme weather, droughts, fire, and contamination by animals that make our food system unreliable.”

Indoor farming solves for many of those challenges, and the data gathered can exponentially deliver more insights that help us predict and control crop quality and yield,” he continues.

Moving forward, it’s likely that AppHarvest will integrate Root AI’s robotics into its business in some way. In the meantime, the company appears to be more interested in the data those robots collect. Working the data in with its regular AI can deliver incredible insights on crop growth and yield.

High Tech Food

If AppHarvest’s acquisition of Root AI says anything, it’s that the agriculture world is hungrier than ever for new tech. Startups like Root AI find themselves in an incredibly hot market with plenty of room for additional growth.

With that in mind, the high-tech agriculture space is worth keeping an eye on in the coming years. It’s likely that more and more companies will attempt to break into the space before it becomes too crowded. For now, it is anyone’s game.

By acquiring Root AI, AppHarvest gives itself an advantage. Not only will the company be able to offer its customers AI-driven analytics, it can also entice them with harvesting robots that collect crops and data simultaneously.

It will be interesting to see how AppHarvest decides to use the assets of its latest acquisition.

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