Charlie Andersen of Augean Robotics
TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF
I grew up on a working farm where I was obsessed with machinery and technology that made the work easier, less hand-work intensive, and more data-driven. This lead to a strong interest in solving commercial problems with robots, so after getting an MBA from Harvard I networked endlessly trying to find a robotics company that would hire me. Since no one would, I went to work for CNHi, John Deere’s largest competitor, where I helped the head of a $2.5B operating unit with strategy while also selling/marketing high tech farm equipment all over North America. While with CNHi, I started fooling around trying to build robots in my parent’s basement after work every night
By November of 2017, I realized that solo in my parent’s basement wasn’t going to lead me anywhere, so I quit my job to work on a startup full time, moved into NextFab’s facility in Philadelphia, met with a few hundred robotics engineers in the area, and from this found an incredible team. Together, we’ve gone from an idea in a basement, to a venture-backed company (we recently closed a $1.5M seed round) with a fleet of robots running with some of the world’s largest growers.
WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY WORKING ON?
We build a robot called Burro. Burro is a collaborative robot, designed to help people work more productively in an agricultural setting by carrying cargo around. Burro is highly data-acquisitive, and is laying the ground work for more and more autonomy where it is needed most.
WHAT’S THE HARDEST PART?
Robots that work outside have to tackle some of world’s hardest engineering challenges. Things like localization (Where am I?) and perception (Is that plant a weed or is it a crop? Can I drive through it?) are complex challenges that require an incredible team able to work across many interconnected disciplines, and generally in harsh environments.
WHAT ARE YOU GOALS?
We just closed a seed round in March, led by FFVC with S2G, Radicle, and several other VCs. With this, we are trialing our product with a variety of large growers of crops like table grapes and blueberries, and racing towards the point that we can sell our robots outright. Longer term, we envision a future where collaborative robots work alongside people to make our food system more sustainable.