ecoRobotix raises 3 million
The first phase of financing of the recently founded business ecoRobotix has been successfully concluded. Three million Swiss francs have been raised. This support makes it possible for the company to go forward to production, and it will soon be marketing its robot weeder. Combining high-tech and robotics, the agricultural vehicle systematically eradicates weeds in row crops.
‘This financial support permits us to complete the development of our machine and launch it on the market. It offers a concrete solution to both economic and ecological problems of the farming world, and makes it possible massively to reduce the use of chemical products,’ said a satisfied Aurélien G. Demaurex, co-founder of ecoRobotix.
Thanks to its sensors, camera and GPS system, this robot – which is solar powered – is in fact capable of spraying only the unwanted growths in a field, drastically reducing the quantity of pesticides used for weeding crops, and consequently reducing the cost to the farmer.
Put through its paces
Initially under the aegis of Innovaud, ecoRobotix succeeded in obtaining its first loan at the end of 2013 – from the Fondation pour l’Innovation Technologique (FIT). This made it possible for the company to start working in earnest, and led to the development of a first prototype in 2014. The support of private investors, and a research project financed by the Swiss Confederation, resulted in an improved machine in 2015, followed by the production of a first series of trial machines which were put through their paces this year, with tests in the field and demonstrations at a number of agricultural events in Switzerland and in France.
First investment by risk capital fund 4FO Ventures
At the start of November the Vaud company clinched the deal for an investment of 3 million Swiss francs in the first phase of financing. Several investors were eager to back the venture, among them the new risk capital fund 4FO Ventures, for whom ecoRobotix is its very first investment project. This Swiss fund has just been set up at the instigation of the serial entrepreneur Jean-Pierre Rosat and the Vice-President of Roche, André Hoffmann. ‘We are delighted to be starting our investments by backing ecoRobotix. The company is a perfect example of the kind of project and the values that we want to support. Its innovative approach, its enthusiasm and the quality of its team are impressive, and we needed little time to be convinced. We anticipate an auspicious future for ecoRobotix,’ was the emphatic conclusion of Jean-Pierre Rosat, General Partner of 4FO Ventures.
Alongside 4FO Ventures, financial support is also being provided by private investors coming from Investiere.ch, one of the first platforms for online investment and one of the main Swiss investors in start-up companies, as well as by Business Angels Switzerland (BAS) and a number of others.
So the total amount of 3 million francs will make it possible to complete the development and industrial production of the robot, and to launch the first sales of the machine in Switzerland and in Europe. The interest the machine has aroused does indeed go well beyond the borders of Switzerland.
Presentation at the biggest Ag trade fair in Switzerland
The month of November will also represent a landmark in the life of ecoRobotix, as the robot will be officially presented at the AGRAMA, the most important agricultural trade fair in Switzerland, to be held from 24 to 28 November at Bernexpo.
A number of live demonstrations have been scheduled, and the robot will have a stand of its own (in Hall 3.0). ‘This will be the very first time our robot is officially presented at an event of national importance. Held every two years, the AGRAMA is attended by more than 50,000 visitors, all of them essential players in the agricultural world. It’s a great opportunity, and gives us a fine platform for demonstrating this new technological expertise,’ added Aurélien G. Demaurex.
A new image for farming
But quite apart from the technology, the development of the robot also results from the pursuit of an ideal on the part of the two co-founders of ecoRobotix. ‘Our motivation was environmental in the first place, with the reduction of herbicides, but we would also like to try to make work on the soil look more attractive to the successive generations. In creating this innovative working tool, adapted to the needs of farmers for whom soil conservation is a priority, we likewise aim to demonstrate that high-tech has a place in the agriculture of tomorrow, alongside traditional inherited wisdom. This is not intended to devalue human labour, but makes it less taxing and less hazardous to health, while being sustainable in both ecological and economic terms,’ concludes Steve Tanner, co-founder of ecoRobotix.