Since Turtle Creek, PA-based agtech startup Four Growers was founded in 2017, it’s built a plant analytics platform aided by a robot called the GR-100 that can detect and harvest fruits and vegetables. Until now, its tools’ capabilities have been limited to harvesting cherry tomatoes.
Now, Four Growers CEO Brandon Contino told Technical.ly in a recent article, the company is branching out to cucumbers. Like tomatoes, cucumbers are a produce that requires a lot of labor to harvest. But amid a national farm labor shortage, it can be a challenge to find workers to fill harvesting needs. That’s where Four Growers’ robotic arm comes in handy.
By expanding to cucumbers, Contino said, the company hopes to help make produce more accessible. This expansion shows that the robotic arm could potentially be used for harvesting a host of fruits and vegetables.
“When we started building the first application of tomato harvesting robotics, we built and designed everything in such a way that this wouldn’t be a tomato harvesting robot,” the CEO says. “It was really a kind of an AI and analytics — and then robotics — platform that could do multiple different tasks and multiple different crops.”
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In the company’s earliest days, Contino said the company considered starting with a vertical farm, but soon the company’s leadership found that the model they wanted to use would have been too expensive to run and made produce more expensive for consumers, not less. Ultimately, neither Contino nor his cofounder felt they had the right skillset to make it sustainable. Instead, they settled on a greenhouse.
In Turtle Creek, Four Growers employs 12 people including directors of software and hardware, computer vision engineers, robotics engineers, and mechanical as well as electrical engineers, plus two technicians out in the field every day.
To date, the company has been backed by at least $7 million in venture capital (with potentially more on the way). Four Growers also has participated in the John Deere Startup Collaborative accelerator (alongside Philly-based agtech startup Burro), as well as the International Fresh Produce Association’s Fresh Field Catalyst program.
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