London, UK: ADM Capital Europe, the London-based private equity firm, has announced that its Cibus Enterprise Fund has acquired a 11.7% stake in the Norwegian agricultural robotics company, Saga Robotics. Saga is the first to commercialise the UV treatment of mildew, a fungus that can have a devastating impact on commercial crops, using a fully automated, modular and autonomous robot, the Thorvald platform.
The initial application of the platform will focus on strawberries, where mildew damage typically costs 2-5% of yield annually, although major outbreaks can be catastrophic for a field (20%+), and will be extended to other high value crops including grape vines, cucumbers and tomatoes. The robotic platform can be readily adapted to procure field data, logistics and precision spraying. Saga is also developing a robotic strawberry harvester which is expected to be in commercial production in 2022.
Cibus Enterprise Fund aims to take advantage of investment opportunities arising from global demographic changes, adoption of improved diets and the inability of many of the world’s fastest growing economies to meet increasing regional demand for certain high-value foods. It looks to invest into game-changing technologies that will improve the efficiency of agriculture and food production, thereby enabling the world to grow more food sustainably and of better quality.
The need to reduce dependence on the use of labour in horticulture has been driving the demand for the development of mechanised harvesting solutions. However, most robotics technology remains several years away from commercialisation. Saga has taken the lead in developing and commercialising its Thorvald technology, with the aim of reducing labour risks, delivering improved efficiency and offering significant sustainability benefits.
The platform is five to ten times lighter than any traditional farm tractor, thus reducing soil compression, which benefits plant yields thereby reducing the amount of fertilizers and water needed. It is electronically driven and does not emit any CO2 or other pollutants during operation. The precision farming enabled by Thorvald can reduce costs associated with pesticide and fertilizer use, improve yields and provides data to further optimise farming operations. It also reduces waste resulting from unharvested ripe fruits due to lack of labour.
Commenting, Alastair Cooper, Head of Venture Investments at ADM Capital Europe said:
“The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need to advance the use of robotics in agriculture, as technology will play an increasing part in reducing labour risk in the harvesting process. Cibus Enterprise Fund is excited to add Saga Robotics to its growing portfolio of sustainable agri-foodtech investments.
“Saga’s robots improve sustainability in farming by reducing soil compression, CO2 emissions, and production losses due to mildew. Using precision farming technology, Saga reduces pesticide and fungicide use and increases plant yields. With quality data applications we will start to see greater actionable intelligence provided to farmers.”
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