Yamaha Motor Ventures & Laboratory Silicon Valley (YMVSV), the venture arm of Yamaha Motor Co, led the $7.5 million Series A funding round for Advanced Farm Technologies (AFT), which develops robotic farming equipment like the T-6 robotic strawberry harvester, which uses multiple robotic arms with custom end effectors (i.e. grippers) to harvest strawberries grown in soil. Other investors in the round include Kubota Corporation, Catapult Ventures, and Impact Venture Capital.
“We invested in AFT for two reasons, most importantly the team. Robotics and hardware, in general in agriculture, have longer development cycles and this is a team that has a track record of taking a previous company from a prototype to a commercial exit. They are grounded, very pragmatic, they listen to growers, and they move very, very fast,” Nolan Paul, a partner at YMVSV, told AFN. “The second reason has to do with the crop they’re targeting — strawberries — which is harvested 70 times each season, at least on the West Coast, so you get lots of turns as opposed to single-harvest crops.”
Paul, who formerly served as head of technology at major fresh berry grower and distributor Driscoll’s, is focused on identifying global agtech investment opportunities. YMVSV is currently making seed and Series A investments out of its $100 million Yamaha Motor Exploratory Fund, which looks at both plant and animal-related technologies. The firm finds harvest to be a particularly ripe investment opportunity considering that it’s the Super Bowl of farming in most instances: it poses the most costs, demands the most labor, and can make or break their profit margins for the year.