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Hippo Harvest Leverages Multi-use Robots to Improve and Automate Indoor Farming

Image Credits: Hippo Harvest
By: Headliners News / February 22, 2024

Meet Hippo Harvest, a very innovative robotics-focused indoor farming startup, has secured $21 million in a Series B funding round led by Standard Investments, with participation from Congruent Ventures, Amazon Climate Pledge Fund, Hawthorne Food Ventures, and Energy Impact Partners.

The funding round values the company at $145 million post-money, a significant increase from its previous $42 million valuation. Hippo Harvest stands out in the indoor farming sector as it places a strong emphasis on repurposed warehouse robots to enhance the efficiency of its farming operations. The robots, originally used in warehouses, act as tractors within greenhouses, providing a unique approach to agricultural automation.

By employing cutting-edge growing technology to cultivate produce sustainably, Hippo Harvest helps achieve a 61% reduction in food waste. Through a customized approach, this AgTech startup reduces fertilizer usage by 55%, delivering precise nutrients directly to plants’ roots at each life stage. The innovative farming practices result in a remarkable 92% reduction in water consumption, ensuring that plants receive optimal hydration precisely when needed. By growing lettuce in local greenhouses, the company helps slash food miles by 80%, minimizing the distance from farm to table. With a commitment to environmental responsibility, Hippo Harvest utilizes 100% post-consumer recycled packaging, leading to a 40% decrease in total plastic compared to traditional clamshell packs. Additionally, the company prioritizes pesticide-free cultivation, promoting wildlife conservation, safeguarding water supplies, and enhancing overall consumer health.

Unlike some of their competitors in the indoor farming space, Hippo Harvest focuses on leveraging robots for greenhouse management rather than relying solely on traditional automation systems. The company draws inspiration from the evolution of robots in Amazon’s warehouses over the past 15 years. Hippo Harvest’s CEO, Eitan Marder-Eppstein, highlighted the shift from fixed process automation to more dynamic and flexible robot-driven systems.

The company’s robots serve multiple purposes, including delivering water and nutrients to plants, collecting data, and transporting mature plants to warehouse operators for harvest. The modular setup of Hippo Harvest’s greenhouse allows for individual plant cells, solving challenges related to nutrient distribution and preventing the spread of pathogens through shared hydroponic loops. The separation of plants in individual cells enables the company to conduct more experiments and gather data for machine learning algorithms.

Hippo Harvest’s approach aims to address common issues in traditional hydroponic greenhouse setups, where shared plumbing loops can limit experimentation and make it challenging to monitor individual plant nutrient intake. The company’s greenhouse modules are positioned on a grid, with robots navigating beneath the flats and emerging in the aisles to perform tasks. By utilizing repurposed robots, Hippo Harvest aims to optimize greenhouse operations, reduce water and fertilizer usage, eliminate the need for pesticides, and enhance overall efficiency.

The recent Series B funding infusion will help support Hippo Harvest scale their operations, while focusing on California markets, where its produce is available through Amazon Fresh and select local stores. This innovative startup emphasizes its commitment to sustainability, with plans to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2040. The success of Hippo Harvest could offer a positive outlook for the indoor farming sector, which has faced challenges in recent times, with some startups experiencing financial difficulties and operational setbacks.

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