2022 SPECIALTY CROP AUTOMATION REPORT
6.1 INTRODUCTION AND PURPOSE
In line with last year’s inaugural report, the aim of the market traction analysis is threefold. First, it seeks to increase transparency and offer an overview of the structure of the specialty crop automation market across different crops and activities. Second, it aims to identify innovation leaders in the specialty crop automation space. This is done based on various market traction metrics, with the key metrics being total funding raised to date, number of paying customers and number of robots in service. Third, the analysis maps progress in these metrics made by start-ups that took part both in the 2021 and 2022 studies, giving an idea of the progress made by start-ups in the sector. In addition to these aims, the analysis looks at common challenges faced by these start-ups, helping to identify ways in which organizations like Western Growers can assist them. While the scope of the analysis is global, most start-ups included in the report are based either in the U.S. or Europe, although start-ups from Israel, Australia and New Zealand are also included. This slant toward more developed countries
is the result of growers in these regions being exposed to higher labor costs and labor shortages, which increases their willingness to pay for automation technology. Furthermore, start-ups in developed regions typically have better access to growth capital, such as venture capital funding. Building on last year’s methodology, data was gathered through surveys targeted at automation start-ups active in the fresh produce industry. Survey insights were complemented with more than 15 interviews with start-ups. In addition to comprehensive survey data, this year’s market traction chapter is written in collaboration with The Mixing Bowl, an agtech con- sultancy, that recently released its 2022 Crop Robotics Landscape. The market map, detailed below, aims to provide an exhaustive view of start-ups across all crop types. While the number of crops mentioned extends beyond the scope of this study, which is restricted to start-ups focused on specialty crop automation, it provides a useful comprehensive overview of crop robotics solutions.
6.2 THE SPECIALTY CROP AUTOMATION MARKET: THE MIXING BOWL’S 2022 CROP ROBOTICS LANDSCAPE
The Mixing Bowl publishes various market landscape maps that capture the use of technology in the food system. The 2022 Crop Robotics Landscape (see Figure 41) focuses on machines that use hardware and soft- ware to perceive surroundings, analyze data and take real-time action on information related to an agricultur- al crop-related function without human intervention. In general, the systems selected for the Landscape had to meet the following criteria: offer autonomous navi- gation or vision-aided precision; be limited to robotic solutions commercially available for sale to others (at least at a demonstrable- prototype stage); and assist in the production of food crops (excluding animal farming, cannabis, or nursery or post-harvest activities). UNDERSTANDING THE 2022 CROP ROBOTICS LANDSCAPE
The Crop Robotics Landscape includes nearly 250 companies developing crop robotic systems today. The robots featured are a mix: some are self-propelled and some are not, some can navigate autonomously and others cannot, some are precise and some are not, some are ground-based and some are air-based systems and some focus on indoor or outdoor production. The landscape is segmented vertically by crop production system: broadacre row crops, field-grown specialty, orchard and vineyard, and indoor. The Landscape is also segmented horizontally by functional area: autonomous movement, crop management and harvest. Within those functional areas are more specific task/product segments.
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