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Source: joint organizations news release

St. Louis - Tortuga AgTech is one step closer to solving one of the largest challenges for growers - harvest labor - after securing a $20 million Series A funding round led by Lewis & Clark AgriFood. Other investors include Ceres Partners, Root Ventures (a third-time investor), Spero Ventures, AME Cloud Ventures, Morado Ventures, Colorado Impact Fund, Remus Capital and Grit Ventures.

The funding makes Tortuga the biggest venture capital backed agricultural harvesting robotics company in the world.

"We took a very strategic view of this industry and are excited about the opportunity to invest in Tortuga," said Dave Taiclet, general partner and managing director, Lewis & Clark AgriFood. "Tortuga's approach to thinking through grower economics and operations gave us a lot of confidence."

With initial robots developed for strawberry production, Tortuga has always considered growers' businesses first and foremost.

"Grower operations and economics are challenging, and we've worked hard to build our system to easily integrate with the grower's," said Eric Adamson, CEO, Tortuga. "To do this well takes agronomic, operational and even manufacturing expertise, not just advanced robotics and artificial intelligence."

Tortuga AgTech, the biggest venture capital backed ag robotics company, secures $20M Section A funding led by Lewis & Clark AgriFood to bring a robotic harvester to high-value crops, including strawberries.
Advanced robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) are fundamentally changing the ability to navigate challenging demands of producing high-value crops by focusing on workers.

"Robotics and automation empower growers to transition to the next iteration of farming format," said Larry Page, Ph.D., managing director, Lewis & Clark AgriFood. "The agricultural system faces many challenges from environmental impact, to escalating labor shortages, to the need for a more sustainable food system. Companies like Tortuga help to solve these challenges while simultaneously helping growers to succeed."

Tortuga is part of an ecosystem focused on sustainability, quality and cost for growers to make a more efficient system possible, especially in the fresh produce industry. The Tortuga harvesting robotics will provide growers with reliable and affordable labor along with access to critical data to improve their operational efficiency. Growers save money immediately because of the low-cost custom robotics and software approach.

"People often think of robots as a simple labor replacement, but we see it as much bigger than that," Adamson said. "When cereal crops started using tractors, it didn't just replace the ox or the horse. It fundamentally changed how farms operated and how the industry was structured to be tractor-centric. The same thing is happening in fresh produce with advanced robotics and AI. This will completely change how the grower profits and navigates challenging demands."

Tortuga intentionally started by solving the grower's problem with new technology, not the other way around. They designed a form factor that addresses the problem and is lower cost than traditional approaches, which is a more difficult challenge to overcome.

"We learned early on that in order to really create value for the grower and Tortuga, we needed to build our own custom robotics stack of hardware and software," said Tim Brackbill, co-founder and CTO, Tortuga. "We also built a generalizable picking algorithm that allows us to transfer across farms and even crops with relative ease. We've built a team that is excited to keep driving the industry forward from here."

Tortuga has begun the commercialization process for a second crop, outdoor table grapes, with a focus on the future for glasshouse tomato, pepper, cucumber and outdoor blueberry crops in the coming years.

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