“One thing I learned in the car business is how tough the environment is on the road and it’s a very similar problem in farming. A lot of the technology is just too delicate and fiddly; durability is a big one in the farm environment.”
Marc Tarpenning, cofounder of the renowned electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla, is talking to AFN about his new board position at Tortuga Agtech, a farm robotics startup that’s just coming out of stealth.
Tarpenning joined the board of strawberry harvesting robotics startup Tortuga through his new role at Spero Ventures as a venture partner. eBay founder Pierre Omidyar is the sole limited partner and backer of the firm. Spero led a $5 million investment in Tortuga in May 2019 with participation from Root Ventures, Susa Ventures, AME Cloud, Morado, Haystack, and Grit Labs. That followed a $2.4 million seed, which we covered on AFN at the time, but Tortuga has remained mum, until now.
Although the idea of a strawberry harvesting robot seems wildly futuristic for many consumers and farmers alike, robotics and automation have been revolutionizing the way we farm for decades from a draft-powered plow to diesel engines to drones scouting crops. Farmers are used to working with machines and learning new devices but as long as there’s no friction to farmers adoption and they’re solving a real problem, says Tarpenning.
“No one has problems using a dishwasher. That’s a robot. But for farmers ultimately I think it has to be a pretty plug-and-play proposition.”