Aigen, the agricultural technology startup specializing in solar-powered weed-thumping robots, secures a $12 million investment

Mon Oct 16, 2023 - 8:55am GMT+0000

Aigen secured $12 million in fresh capital, injecting new energy into the company’s efforts to introduce a solar-powered robot utilizing advanced computer vision algorithms to identify and eliminate weeds.

Established in 2020 and headquartered in Kirkland, Washington, this innovative startup recently introduced the Aigen Element. This robotic system boasts a pair of mechanical arms designed to efficiently remove unwanted vegetation from agricultural fields. Remarkably, these robots are capable of operating continuously for up to 14 hours without the need for a direct power source.

Aigen also disclosed its ongoing development of a low-energy AI model designed to deliver real-time crop data directly to a farmer’s mobile application. This initiative aims to support farmers in reducing carbon emissions, gaining valuable field insights, and decreasing operational expenses.

The infusion of fresh capital was revealed through a new filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Kenny Lee, the co-founder and CEO of Aigen, confirmed the funding without disclosing specific details, with plans to announce the investors in the near future.

Kenny Lee, with a background in cybersecurity and previous experience as the co-founder of the acquired startup, is at the helm of Aigen. He is joined by co-founder Rich Wurden, a former senior engineer at the Seattle-based electric boat company Pure Watercraft and a mechanical engineer with experience at Tesla. The duo’s paths crossed in a climate-focused Slack group chat dedicated to helping engineers pivot their careers toward addressing environmental issues.

Aigen is part of the growing wave of Seattle startups leveraging AI to automate labor-intensive tasks in agriculture, including weed control, fertilization, and field analysis. For instance, another Seattle-based startup, TerraClear, utilizes machine learning and hardware to clear rocks from fields.

One key distinction between Aigen and similar startups, like Carbon Robotics, is that Aigen relies solely on renewable energy sources, a detail emphasized by Wurden in an earlier conversation with GeekWire.

A news release from the startup highlighted the Element’s rapid pre-order sales, underscoring the enthusiasm among U.S. commodity farmers for more efficient weeding solutions.

Shifting economic pressures and increasing costs are motivating farmers to consider adopting ag-tech solutions, as indicated in a report by McKinsey & Co. The study revealed that 39% of surveyed farmers worldwide plan to adopt at least one ag-tech product within the next two years.

While funding for ag-tech startups experienced a dip in the past year during the broader tech industry downturn, there has been a recent resurgence, though not to the same extent as two years ago.

Previously, Aigen had raised $4 million in a seed funding round in 2022, bringing its cumulative funding to approximately $7 million. Notable investors include NEA, AgFunder, Global Founders Capital, ReGen Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners, Industrious Ventures, E2 Ventures, and Cleveland Avenue.