The judges at the Western Growers’ AgSharks competition include Kevin Andrew (fifth from left), chief farming officer at Vanguard International, and Vic Smith (far right), president and CEO of JV Smith Cos. ( Courtesy Western Growers )

A Burro walked away from the Western Growers’ AgSharks competition with a $250,000 equity investment offer.

This Burro, however, isn’t stubborn. The robotic platform follows workers in the field, moving cargo autonomously, capturing data along the way that helps automate harvesting. That data can be used by the grower to improve operational efficiencies, according to a news release.

Augean Robotics, maker of the Burro platform, received the seed funding from S2G Ventures. Augean Robotics competed against four other agtech companies at the AgSharks competition at the Western Growers 93rd Annual Meeting in Palm Desert, Calif., Oct. 28-31.

Augean Robotics’ long-term mission is to automate the “tedious” parts of fieldwork, making fresh produce growing more sustainable and less reliant on labor while meeting the needs of a growing population according to the release.

“If we are going to continue providing safe and healthy food to a growing population, there needs to be a systemic transformation of the way we cultivate our food,” Tom Nassif, president and CEO of Western Growers. “That’s where technology comes in. Providing growth opportunities for cutting-edge companies such as Augean Robotics will play a significant role in improving how we farm so we can dramatically increase food production.”

Along with the seed money, Augean Robotics receives access to farm acreage to test Burro.

“In S2G and Western Growers, we see a group with boots on the ground and eyes on the horizon – keenly aware of the day to day needs of farmers and the incredible potential for robots in agriculture over the coming decade,” Charles Andersen, CEO of Augean Robotics, said in the release.

The other startups involved in the AgSharks competition:

  • ImpactVision — Software provides insights about the quality of foods, such as freshness of salad, the ripeness of avocados or the presence of foreign objects at production grade speeds.
  • Skyx — An agricultural-robotics technology company enabling a swarm of autonomous drones for spraying.
  • HeavyConnect — A food safety app allows growers to comply with any food safety standard, by enabling farm managers to complete food safety checklists in the mobile application.
  • Bird Control Group — Builder of Autonomic, a bird repelling system that uses lasers.

A year ago, at the first AgSharks competition, Hazel Technologies and AgVoice received a $2.25 million total investment offer from S2G Ventures, according to the release.

Besides AgSharks, Western Growers has supported growth of technology for the fresh produce industry through the WG Center for Innovation & Technology in Salinas, Calif., and launched the AgTechx Summit series.