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Robotics and automation company Robotics Plus has been named in the THRIVE Top 50, an annual ranking of leading global AgTech companies exemplifying the best in agriculture innovation. 

Robotics Plus, the only New Zealand company to make the 2020 Top 50 ranking, was just one of five companies featured in the Robotics & Automation category.

Robotics Plus CEO Dr Matt Glenn says it’s a huge honour to receive a coveted spot on THRIVE’s Top 50 global list. “We’re thrilled to be showcased in such a prestigious list alongside exceptional AgTech companies from around the world who are pushing the boundaries of technology and innovation.  It’s a fantastic acknowledgement for our diverse team who are developing world-leading innovation incorporating automation, vision, robotics and AI.”

Over the past two years Robotics Plus has achieved some major milestones, including: launching its first two commercial innovations – the Āporo apple packer and an automatic log scaler, entering the US and European markets, and completing a US$10M Series A investment with Yamaha Motor Co.  Robotics Plus has a number of new products in the pipeline that it intends to launch in the next 18 months.

The SVG Ventures THRIVE Top 50 companies are scouted for their exemplary leadership teams, technology and traction and are selected following months of rigorous research by the SVG-THRIVE team in collaboration with Corporate Partners include leading agriculture and technology corporations such as Corteva, Driscoll berries, Kubota, Trimble, Taylor Farms, Valmont, Yamaha and Forbes. 

Robotics Plus was founded in 2013 by Steve Saunders and Dr Alistair Scarfe to improve the quality, productivity and sustainability across multiple agricultural sectors through automation, via a suite of machine vision, robotics and automation, machine learning and AI, analytics, software and control systems. 

Steve Saunders, Chairman and Co-Founder of Robotics Plus, says: “It’s a fantastic validation for our talented team to be featured in the THRIVE Top 50 – they’ve put in an enormous amount of work over the past few years to develop world-first platform technologies that help solve some really important food and fibre challenges in agriculture. We’d also like to recognise our fantastic partners and collaborators in the commercial, research and Government sectors, who have played a vital role in our technology and company development.”

SVG Ventures-THRIVE is the leading AgriFood innovation ecosystem, comprised of top agriculture, food and technology corporations, universities, and investors. To qualify for a THRIVE Top 50 listing a company must have a product in market, have received a minimum of series A funding and be ready to scale.

Robotics Plus launched its award winning robotic Āporo apple packers commercially in 2018. The technology, which identifies and safely places up to 120 apples per minute in display trays, is being marketed by Global Pac Technologies, a Jenkins Group (NZ/Australia) and Van Doren Sales (US) joint venture. The patented robotic apple packer is the world’s first fully automated packing solution that orients and colour packs apples into trays for export, and is already operating in packhouses in New Zealand, USA, and Europe.

In 2019 Robotics Plus launched its industry-changing Robotic Scaling Machines (RSM) which automates the accurate volumetric measurement of logs on trucks and trailers, with Mount Maunganui-based ISO Limited commissioning the world’s first automated logging truck scalers. ISO now have seven robots installed across the North Island with further installations planned across the country in the next 12 months. Approximately 25% of New Zealand’s log exports are currently measured through this technology.

Robotics Plus has a range of other technologies under development to address major issues across a number of agricultural sectors, including the horticulture industry which is facing labour shortages and increasing consumer demand for fresh fruit, such as: an autonomous agricultural vehicle, robotic pollinator, robotic harvesters, crop estimator, and a number of confidential projects. 

Dr Glenn says it’s an exciting time for Robotics Plus. “Our vision is to grow into a truly global business that will transform a number of industries.  We’re rapidly growing our world-class development team to prototype new ideas, validate new components and integrate these into our robotic systems. Importantly we’re also well supported by local and international partners who are helping us scale quickly to meet market demand.”

The THRIVE Top 50 – fifty companies shaping the future of the agriculture supply chain – will be featured at the THRIVE Innovation Summit in Silicon Valley on 25 March 2020.  The Innovation Summit, which covers topics such as automated agriculture, climate positive agriculture, next gen proteins, blockchain, indoor/vertical farming, integrated supply chain, and biotechnology, also attracts leaders of Fortune 500 food and agriculture corporations implementing these disruptive technologies.

Photo: Dr Alistair Scarfe, CTO and Co-Founder (L) and Steve Saunders, Chairman and Co-Founder (R) with Robotics Plus’ UGV (Unmanned Ground Vehicle).

Glenn Baker

Glenn is a professional writer/editor with 50-plus years’ experience across radio, television and magazine publishing.


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