Portfolio news - Fieldwork Robotics raises £1.5 million from Elbow Beach Capital and appoints David Fulton as CEO
Frontier IP, a specialist in commercialising intellectual property, today welcomes the announcement below from Elbow Beach Capital, which is investing £1.5 million in the Group's portfolio company Fieldwork Robotics ("Fieldwork" or the "Company"). The investment is part of an equity funding round by Fieldwork of more than £2 million.
The fundraising values Fieldwork at £6.7 million post money. As part of the funding round, Frontier IP has invested £172,000 through the conversion of loans and trade debt. Following the conversion, the Group no longer has any loans or trade debt with Fieldwork and now has a 22% equity interest in the Company. A further amount of up to £600,000 is expected to be raised by Fieldwork via a Seedrs' funding round opening today.
Fieldwork has also appointed David Fulton as Chief Executive Officer, with effect from 17th July 2023. David has more than 30 years' business experience, most recently as co-founder and director of LAB+BONE, a service to protect dogs' identity by using DNA. Before starting LAB+BONE, he was Chief Executive Office of WeSee, a company using advanced computer vision technology mimicking the human brain's ability to understand and process visual information. He previously held executive positions with Expedia, Adform and Microsoft.
Rui Andres, former CEO of Fieldwork, will continue as CEO of fellow Frontier IP portfolio company, Molendotech, but now on a full-time basis.
Fieldwork has developed the world's first raspberry-harvesting robots, which are now picking fruit in Portugal at farms run by the Summer Berry Company. Customers of the Summer Berry Company include leading supermarkets such as Sainsbury's, Waitrose and M&S.
The Company will use the proceeds from the round to grow its team, outsource robot manufacture and attract more farmers to its harvesting-as-a-service offering. Fieldwork aims to increase the harvesting speed of its robots and have more than 100 robots available to farmers by 2025.
Frontier IP Chief Executive Officer Neil Crabb said: "We are delighted with Elbow Beach Capital's support for Fieldwork Robotics and the appointment of David Fulton as the Company's CEO. I look forward to the successful completion of the funding round through Seedrs and to Fieldwork's future success."
Elbow Beach Capital announcement begins:
EBC Leads Seed Round into Raspberry Picking Robot Developer
EBC Leads Seed Round into Raspberry Picking Robot Developer
Leaders in their field: Fieldwork Robotics creator of the world's first raspberry picking robot secures funding to enhance its technology and expand operational footprint
· Elbow Beach Capital has committed £1.5m to an ongoing £2m+ fundraise
· Additional funding provided by a Seedrs round
· Over £60m worth of crops are due to be wasted by UK farms this year
· Fieldwork's proprietary AI and robotics technology is designed to tackle labour, wastage and efficiency issues in the UK and internationally
· Fieldwork benefits from an existing commercial partnership signed with the Summer Berry Company with raspberries picked by its robots already in Sainsbury's, Marks & Spencer and Waitrose
Link to Seedrs page: https://www.seedrs.com/fieldwork-robotics
Cambridge, 10 August 2023 - Elbow Beach Capital, the decarbonisation, sustainability and social impact investor today announces its third AgriTech investment, backing harvesting robot developers, Fieldwork Robotics Ltd. Elbow Beach contributed £1.5 million and an ongoing Seedrs round which opened to new investors today is expected to raise an additional £600k. The round closes in September. Frontier IP, a family office and other existing investors have also followed on in this round.
Farms in Europe, and worldwide, are suffering from a continuous and worsening shortage of workers. In the UK, this problem has been exacerbated by Covid-19, Brexit, the war in Ukraine and high employment levels in competing sectors, with the National Farmers' Union suggesting that as much as £60m of food will be left to rot on farms this year due to labour shortages.
Initially focusing on soft fruits, such as raspberries, Fieldwork Robotics has developed advanced, AI-supported harvesting robots to help solve the problem of worker shortages, increase farm efficiency and reduce food wastage in the UK and beyond. Raspberry producers in particular face several issues including chronic labour shortages and dwindling net margins. Picking raspberries alone accounts for over 50% of total production costs.
Spun out of the University of Plymouth and now based in Cambridge, Fieldwork benefits from a highly experienced team with backgrounds in applied sciences, electronics, engineering, software and manufacturing. This experience allowed the Fieldwork team to develop the first autonomous raspberry harvesting robot, in collaboration with Bosch. The robot, named Alpha, analyses the crop, decides when to harvest the raspberries, and places them in punnets ready for delivery to supermarkets.
Alpha gives growers the ability to extend operations to 24 hours a day, increasing harvesting time threefold. With farmers struggling to recruit farm workers, Alpha can provide assurance that farmers' capability to harvest will not be impacted by seasonal or policy-led variations in available labour supply. Fieldwork's technology therefore allows growers to significantly increase their harvesting efficiency and reduce the food wastage caused by human labour shortages.
Working in collaboration with the Summer Berry Company, Fieldwork has deployed Alpha to farms in Portugal, and the fruit it harvests is currently being sold in the UK's top supermarkets including M&S, Sainsbury's and Waitrose.
Prior to this round, Fieldwork received over £700,000 in backing from Innovate UK and support from EIT Food, giving the company access to a network of entrepreneurs, agricultural leaders and academics. Fieldwork will use the proceeds of this round to grow its team, begin outsourcing the manufacture of its robots and onboard more farmers to its harvesting-as-a-service offering. The company aims to have over 100 robots available for harvesting-as-a-service by 2025 and treble the harvesting speed of its robots.
The immediate focus of Fieldwork is to address the pressing issue of unharvested soft fruit, particularly focusing on raspberries, which represent a $2bn global market opportunity. Global demand for raspberries continues unabated with an impressive c.22% annual export growth.
Fieldwork has recently recruited David Fulton as CEO who brings a wealth of knowledge in AI, technology development and marketing.
Jon Pollock, CEO of Elbow Beach Capital: "The Fieldwork Robotics team combine their significant technical expertise with a drive to create an instant and lasting impact. Agriculture as it stands is not fit for purpose and we need innovative technologies to alleviate the unsustainable levels of waste and improve the economics for the farmer and end customers in the sector. We look forward to working closely with Fieldwork as they tackle this issue head on."
David Fulton, CEO of Fieldwork Robotics: "Elbow Beach Capital are a great strategic and cultural fit for us. As a genuine impact investor, it's clear that EBC are not only looking for potential value, but also at the impact of their investments and how they can make the world a better place. This round will support our work with forward-looking farms looking to solve their labour shortages, reduce crop wastage and mitigate food inflation."