Actuators: Underwater, Overseas, Vertical Farming and Midwest Manufacturing
things were going on The cool side at Robotland this week – and honestly, I don’t mind. Covering the industry these days, your breath is not taking its name to stop. But even a category as supercharged as robotics and automation sometimes has slow weeks – and late July/early August is just as good a time as how we got here and there. To take a step back on where we’re headed.
Quickly, I’m tracking some of the larger trends in the coming weeks and months:
- I am looking Chips and Science Act Over the past few weeks it has made its way through Congress and onto the president’s desk. This was something that Secretary Walsh raised during our recent conversation, and robotics and automation firms are no doubt keeping a close eye on what impact this could have on home manufacturing.
- On the less funny side, it looks like we’re sitting here waiting for the other shoe to drop amid fears of an economic crisis and recession. If you follow actuators, you are well aware that the industry is not immune to this kind of activity, but for a category in which it is very difficult to succeed, it is surprisingly heavily driven by the pandemic. Resistant to investment. Don’t be surprised if both investors and startups gear up in the coming months.
- Going public in 2023? Locus Robotics recently mentioned its plans for an IPO (still a rarity among robotics cos — especially via the more traditional route). Given the amount of money and interest that has been circulating in recent years, I wouldn’t be surprised if more companies are eyeing one, but — at the very least — are waiting to see if some macroeconomic factors play out. How do you move?
- I’m seeing a lot of trends from general interest news outlets about the widespread adoption of robotics in places like restaurants. This means we are at the point of the cycle where we monitor how many places stick with these techniques. Too often these are stories of a company experimenting with some new technology to find a little promotional blow, only to decide it doesn’t make sense in a big way after things are over.
I would say, I think we are at a point where we can say that automation is much more than a flash in the pan when it comes to warehousing and logistics. Many companies have had great success here, and the labor shortage doesn’t seem to be going away on its own any time soon. This week, FedEx and Berkshire Gray entered into a great deal Joe buys robotics systems worth $200 million to the logistics giant in exchange for a stock warrant. This news represents a nice increase in BG’s stock price after a really tough time following the SPAC year.
FedEx Corporate VP Rebecca Yeung says:
Our growing relationship with Berkshire Gray for Robotic Automation is a direct response to the growth of e-commerce, which has accelerated the demand for reliable automated solutions at all stages of the supply chain. FedEx believes that continuous innovation and automation will improve efficiency, productivity and security for team members as they continue to move up the global supply chain.
some positive growth news for Fanux North American WingWhich sees the Japanese industrial robotics giant nearly doubling its presence in Michigan after opening a campus in late 2019. Once finished, it will add 788,000 square feet to the original 461,000.
Meanwhile Monarch announced this week that it would manufacture its autonomous tractors at Foxconn’s Lordstown, Ohio plant. This news comes after the announcement of retail expansion in India.
Kirsten got the news at the launch of Polymath Robotics, a new firm founded by Stefan Seltz-Exmacher of Starkey. He begins with a provocative quote “robots suck”. I’d argue for a more subtlety “robots are less user-friendly than they should be”, but that’s far less porous and is probably a big part of why I’m trying to make a living on the salary of a journalist in New York City. and startup is not launching.
The firm is foraying into the lucrative field of user-friendly automation software. There’s a reason so many people are trying to crack the code of hardware-agnostic, user-friendly robotics software. That’s a lot of money for the company that could actually stall the landing.
It looks like the funding for the last-mile delivery robot isn’t completely out yet. Ottonomy.IO has just raised a seed round of $3.3 million as it works towards the widespread deployment of its sidewalk ‘bots’. Co-founder Ritukar Vijay, naturally citing labor shortage as a driver here, told Meczyki.Net, “One of the most important problems we are trying to solve with these autonomous delivery robots is Labor shortage is around.”
Earlier this week I wrote about a sizable ~$30 million raise for the spread. The firm is probably the best-known name in Japan’s growing vertical agriculture industry. As I mentioned, things started in space around 2011, when the tsunami caused the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster, with many in the country looking at agricultural options. I’m mentioning it here because robotics, along with other leaders in the space, are a big part of Spread’s automatic game.
Terabase Energy, meanwhile, just announced $44 million Series B, co-led by Prelude Ventures and Bill Gates’s Breakthrough Energy. The round brings the Berkeley-based company’s total funding to $52 million. The company uses robotics to assist in the construction and operation of its photovoltaic power plants. It notes in a release:
Terabase’s automated field-factory, capable of 24/7 operation, can significantly reduce construction schedules and reduce costs while ensuring high construction quality. Robotics-assisted workflow will often improve worker health and safety by eliminating manual lifting of heavy panels and steel components under difficult outdoor weather conditions.
And finally, NASA detailed this week Its work on a shape-shifting submarine system developed with Houston-based Nauticus Robotics. Per NASA:
Bright orange, fully electric, and about the size of a sports car, the company’s signature robot, the Aquanaut, resembles a propeller-driven torpedo as it motors to its destination. At that point, its shell opens up and the nose folds up to reveal a suite of cameras and other sensors, now facing the front. The two hands swing outwards, ending in claw hands that can be equipped with various tools.
Potential tasks for the robot include inspection of underwater equipment such as wind turbines, maintenance of underwater cables, and monitoring of fish populations.
Come under the sea at the Actuator Garden.