FAC Global Finalist First Runner Up 2019 | Future Agro Challenge

FAC Global Finalist First Runner Up 2019


Eleos Robotics’ agricultural robotics technology is helping to solve big-picture issues in the world. Did you know that we are undergoing global labor and environmental crisis? We need to increase food production by over 70% by 2050 worldwide or we will be facing food shortage even famine. How can we accomplish this while we are experiencing global farm labor shortages? On top of this, thousands worldwide are killed by chronic illness turned terminal caused by harmful herbicide poison ingested, and tens of thousands are hospitalized. In conclusion, our crisis is three-pronged. It is societal, environmental, and economical all at once.

Eleos’ solution is RoboWeeder. It is an artificially intelligent weeding killing robot that uses patent-pending precision heating technology to control weeds organically and autonomously.

The agricultural technology industry is still in infancy and for the most part made of pioneering start-ups. However, we are still seeing many narrow applications such as precision agriculture solutions and open-source robotic solutions. These are great for agriculture accept they are very difficult for farmers to adopt. The first because farmers need “hammers”, not “nails”. “Hammers” replace existing activities altogether for a similar or lesser cost, while “nails” add complexity and cost to the value chain. Robotics, in general, does better at reducing labor and automating the value chain. However, one of the problems is that most of the robots available today are open source in nature and require an extremely tech savvy and heavily resourced farmer to successfully deploy them. The technology Eleos is bringing to market is turn-key so even the most grassroots farmer can operate it with ease. In the next five years, we will see a proliferation of narrow artificial intelligence robotics technologies in everyday life and on the farm. In 5-10 years, we will see massive disruption from multi-purpose robots using strong artificial intelligence. At this point, clear industry leaders will emerge and consolidate.

Yahoel Van Essen, the Founder of Eleos Robotics is a serial technology entrepreneur. He discovered the festering labor problems in viticulture through family connections and has always been somewhat of an activist contrary to pesticide use and the development of genetically modified crops. Therefore, Yahoel’s understanding of emerging technologies, pesticides, and farm labor issues all combined resulting in the RoboWeeder.

Eleos Robotics uses precision heating technology to remove weeds. This unique technology precisely removes weeds by destroying their cells, dehydrating them, and by creating a lethal thermal shock. This prevents weeds from re-growing, thins the seed bank over time, gets at the roots, and is safe for the crop. The RoboWeeder is the only fully closed-loop autonomous system being developed. Eleos has been the most ambitious concerning the RoboWeeder’s level of autonomy. Furthermore, Eleos is using bleeding-edge artificial intelligence technology, some of which may qualify for patents. It is also the smallest weeding machine being developed. In conclusion, the RoboWeeder is looking to be the world’s most disruptive technology to herbicides on earth, and it is patent-pending worldwide.

“We are a for-profit company, and therefore, we need to maximize shareholder wealth, while being socially responsible. But, agricultural robotics is capital intensive. Hitting research and venture development milestones requires cash infusion. Moreover, when you are developing bleeding-edge technology, you are likely going to experience failure. The stakes are high in an agricultural robotics venture. That is why few attempts to build one. Finally, finding and retaining a reliable, talented team is difficult. You need to find developers and partners who forgo security and welcome uncertainty in the name of your cause.” Yahoel, Eleos’ founder has had to endure numerous disappointments as treasured team members have come and gone over the years.

Naio Technologies out of Toulouse, France, and Advanced Intelligence Systems (AIS) (a Vancouver local role model) has been a huge inspiration for Eleos. Naio, in particular, is one of the first pioneers in the agricultural robotics space to commercialize their robotics and they seem to remain innovative as they grow. Moreover, they work with vineyards and it is interesting to see how different minds and cultures approach farm automation. Finally, AIS is the only agricultural robotics company in Canada to successfully commercialize. They developed “BigTop” for manipulating pots autonomously in nurseries. Their founders and management have also supported Eleos’ founder Yahoel with encouragement and advice over the years.

Eleos wanted to prove to its customers, investors, team, and stakeholders that they are one of the top agriculture technology start-ups in the world because they believe it. So, they took on the challenge to join the FAC Global Competition, successfully taking Global Finalist First Runner Up against the best start-ups in the sector was humbling. Eleos can say “we are one of the best” with conviction. Furthermore, Eleos wanted to connect with the best start-up ventures to explore potential partnerships. Funding opportunities are always a possibility as well. However, we have already successfully raised the funds we need to finish development on the RoboWeeder.  “Being part of the FAC Global Network has put us in discussion with some of the best FAC start-ups for potential partnerships of which Eleos would take the lead,” states Van Essen.

RoboWeeder is currently on market and being sold fully maintained and monitored remotely to vineyards, orchards and berry farms. To support them on their journey, you can email them at info@eleosrobotics.com.