Aigen raised $12 million in fresh cash, providing a boost for the company rolling out a solar-powered robot that uses advanced computer vision models to spot and kill weeds.
Founded in 2020, the Kirkland, Wash.-based startup recently unveiled the Aigen Element, which features two robotic arms that thump out unwanted plants on farms. Its robots can operate continuously for up to 14 hours and do not need to be plugged in.
The company said it is also developing a low-energy AI model that can send real-time crop information to a farmer’s mobile app. The idea is to help farmers reduce carbon emissions, gain field insights, and reduce costs.
A new SEC filing revealed the fresh cash. Kenny Lee, the startup’s co-founder and CEO, confirmed the funding to GeekWire. He did not provide additional details but said the company will announce its investors in the “near future.”
Lee has a background in cybersecurity and co-founded a startup called Weblife.io that was acquired in 2017. He’s joined by co-founder Rich Wurden, a former senior engineer at Seattle electric boat company Pure Watercraft and mechanical engineer at Tesla. The duo met in a climate-focused group chat on Slack that helps engineers pivot their careers to address climate issues.
Aigen is part of a growing crop of Seattle startups using AI to automate labor-intensive farming tasks such as weed control, fertilization, field analysis, and more. Seattle startup TerraClear, for instance, uses machine learning and hardware to remove rocks from fields.
Aigen is similar to Carbon Robotics, a Seattle startup that also sells weed-zapping robots. Carbon raised $30 million in April and won the Hardware/Gadget/Robotics of the Year honors at the GeekWire Awards in May.
One difference between the two startups is that Aigen is completely renewable powered, Wurden previously told GeekWire.
The startup said in a news release that pre-orders for the Element sold out in one day, “further demonstrating the excitement among U.S. commodity farmers for more effective approaches to weeding.”
Shifting pressures including rising costs are pushing farmers to be more open to purchasing ag-tech products, according to a McKinsey & Co. report. The study found that 39% of surveyed farmers worldwide intend to adopt at least one ag-tech product within the next two years.
Aigen raised a $4 million seed round in 2022, bringing its previous funding total to around $7 million. Investors include NEA, AgFunder, Global Founders Capital, ReGen Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners, Industrious Ventures, E2 Ventures, and Cleveland Avenue.