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Marta Portales

Venture Jury Day

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1st Batch RobotUnion Super Stars selected!

After 10 months of intensive acceleration program with Technical and Business mentors, it´s time to select 4 most promising and best-performing companies from the brave robotics team selected from the 1st Open Call.

The RobotUnion Venture Jury Day took place on the 5th of December 2019 in Paris and was organized by Blumorpho who will lead the support to selected companies in raising Private Funds in next few months.

The final selection was made by two main criteria: Technical, which was evaluated by internal RobotUnion experts and the Investors who came to Paris to see (and hear!) the pitch of all 10 companies and advise the RobotUnion consortium which one is the most promising.

 

The event gathered more than 15 investors interested in our 10 finalists (Klaus Kummermehr from Venture Capital – Go Beyond Investing, Daniele Molteni from Chrysalix Venture Capital, François Tison of  360 Capital, Julien Bourcerie Venture Capital at Bouygues Construction among others). All 10 companies had an opportunity to pitch (3 minutes) and answer a short round of questions to the public.

After that, we took the opportunity of this great ecosystem of experts gathered in one place in order to hold a discussion about the current situation of investment in robotics in Europe and the upcoming challenges.

We also had an opportunity to present the 2nd open call winners, who have just started their journey with RobotUnion in October this year. Rebartek and Aether were present at the event to present their companies as well. Well done!

In the meanwhile, in the separate room the RobotUnion partners and two external experts gathered to agree on the final ranking and to perform an additional round of questions with 10 companies.

The competition was tuff and the final results were announced at the end of the event.

We are proud of RobotUnion mission towards gender equality: two out of four selected startup´s CEOs are female! Congratulations Sofie Woge and Ekaterina Grib!

The winners will now enter to the last Stage 4 and receive an additional 100.000€ of equity-free funding.

On top of that, they will get additional mentoring:

  • Private investment opportunities with the support of Blumorpho the VC Chrysalix and Odense Seed & Ventures.
  • Participate in the RobotUnion Investors Day during the Automatica 2020 event.
  • Identify the public funding available.
  • Preparing a proof of concept in real market conditions.
  • Connect you to corporates and in arranging partnership agreements.

Congratulations to all RobotUnion companies involved and to 4 RobotUnion Super Stars!

Tendo: grasp life with Tendo – A robotic glove which increases the function of your grip – made for people, not symptoms (Sweden).

Kewazo: Kewazo offers a smart robotic system that performs flexible, cost-efficient and safe transportation of construction materials on-site (Germany).

Cliin: proactively keep vessel hulls clean from biofouling, saving the shipping industry billions in saved fuel consumption and hull maintenance (Denmark).

Nido Robotics: advanced underwater robots with an unparalleled price-performance ratio, oriented towards commercial applications in inshore waters (Spain).

Venture Jury Day - Paris 5/12/2019

Do robots dream of electric hot dogs? The future of Robotics in the agri-food industry

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Photo by Prateek Katyal on Unsplash

By 2050, humans will have to double the current food production in order to feed the growing world’s population and adapt to evolving consumption habits. However, considering how damaging and impactful the agro-industry has been in the past years with respect to climate change as well as soil and water quality, we will have no choice but to find much more efficient as well as sustainable agri-food production methods to feed the close to 10 billion people that will populate Earth in a few decades.

Agri-food is a term that combines the words agriculture and food to relate to all the food production activities. According to Esther Delignat-Lavaud Rodriguez, the term agri-food can be split into two parts: agritech referring to technologies that target farmers and foodtech, technologies targeting manufacturers, retailers, restaurants, and consumers.

According to the European Union (EU), agri-food industries and services provide over 44 million jobs within the EU territory, among which 20 million workers in the agricultural sector itself. As market trends move towards better products, sustainable production, diversification in the offer and new consumption habits, it is estimated that the global food and agriculture industry is worth at least $8 trillion.

With automation in every industry becoming a reality, the agri-food sector could definitely benefit from the current technology breakthroughs to improve its efficiency, especially through robotics.

Indeed, robots are becoming more and more part of every human-related activity including agriculture, livestock farming, and nature conservation industries. Their implementation seeks to improve working conditions, generate higher yields and increase overall product quality.

Here are for instance some farming tasks in which robots could help following a report from the Wageningen University:

  1. assessing the quality and sorting seeds,
  2. assessing the quality and sorting seedling,
  3. assessing quality in the greenhouse,
  4. assessing quality in the field,
  5. precision techniques in the field,
  6. autonomous navigation,
  7. harvesting,
  8. assessing quality and sorting products,
  9. processing products, packing products
  10. and more!

Keen on some concrete examples? Here we go:

  • Hello Chickenboy!

Faromatics is one of the startups accelerated by the RobotUnion programme in the agrifood sector. They focus on bringing high tech to livestock production. How?

By monitoring animals continuously, their aim is to detect needs quickly and reliably. Their technology helps farmers identify welfare issues, oncoming diseases, and equipment failures, as well as assess the living conditions of the animals remotely.

Their product Chickenboy is the world-wide first roof-suspended robot that observes chickens, litter and equipment autonomously 24/7.

The robot monitors air quality, health, and welfare through a multitude of sensors and cameras inspects equipment operation and informs farmers, stock persons or vets via mobile alarms.

  • For tomato go to Automato!

Automato is a company accelerated by the RobotUnion programme and developing a robot that works on greenhouses soils and in high tunnels to harvest tomatoes. Their aim is to get their solution to market and to demonstrate repeatable harvesting quality in order to create a groundbreaking experience for growers.

Fresh tomatoes are the most common vegetable that is grown in greenhouses and are generally manually harvested. Tomato growers have a hard time finding the labour to work in their greenhouses as the work is repetitive and performed in hot and humid conditions. As a consequence, their robot is a great solution for the vegetable harvesting sector.

  • No more back and forward casings!

Proxima Centauri is a company that aims at using its unique technology to reduce costs and improve the quality of the food in the sausage industry. They are also accelerated through the RobotUnion programme.

All sausage factories use intestines, known as natural casings. It’s important that casing diameter is correct  Today, casings from around 200 million pigs from Europe are cleaned, salted, packaged and sent to China to be sorted 100% manually. Around 7.000 people in China measure and sort casing from Europe. In addition, it is worth pointing out that the current process is very expensive.

Their solution SelectiCa3 is a robot designed to automatically pick up, measure and sort casings following the desired diameters. SelectiCa3 is a great way to reduce costs and the final product.

  • Starting the discussion now!

Among the leaders of the ongoing conversation is Jungle, an open-source platform for autonomous production. They coined the “robofacturing” concept, based on the idea of an improved production system in manufacturing. This could be achieved by implementing software-defined manufacturing in an affordable, flexible and quick way.

The past 24th October, Jungle organised in Barcelona  Robofacturing real food for everyone, an event supported by RobotUnion. The discussion revolved around the topic of automated production of food using robotics and software-defined manufacturing that will improve food production processes from farms to forks.


 

The sector needs to recognize that it should be taking new technological steps to increase productivity and meet the demand without damaging the environment. An approach proposed by agrifood experts Phil Webster, Frederik van Oene and Maki Kurosawa in their article The future of Agri-Food. Foresight in the challenges that need to be addressed in the future is essential.

Written by Natalia Cardona Mercado for RobotUnion

Welcome Camp in Odense!

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During the 2nd and 3rd October 2019, RobotUnion has started the second acceleration round with the Welcome Camp event. Representatives of 20 startups , RobotUnion partners and technical mentors were present during these two days at the Danish Technological Institute (DTI) in Odense, Denmark. Companies presented their feasibility plans together with their technological and business challenges to the consortium. Ten startups with the best fit with the RobotUnion program were selected to continue to Stage 2 which includes 12 months of technical mentoring with the Technological Research centers involved in the consortium. On top of that, each startup will receive 120.00 EUR equity-free cash.

In Odense, the competing startups also had the chance to hear the Keynote Speaker Esben Østergaard, founder of REInvest Robotics and co-founder of Universal Robotics. His keynote speech The meaning of collaborative robots shared the insights on how the improvements in the robotics field have transformed the way we work, by developing robots that can be easily be programmed and used. His company opened a new innovative road to integrate robots into everyday activities, making the accomplishment of tasks easier and accessible to people working with them. Changing the paradigm from robots as machines to robots as tools to work with.

Below is the list of the 10 companies that were selected for the second phase of our acceleration program: 

  • Rigitech (Switzerland): Drone delivery to integrate supply chains through hybrid drone hardware and cloud-based logistics.
  • Aether Biomedical (Poland): Zeus is a low cost-high efficacy prosthesis. This bionic limb can multiarticulate 14 grip modes.
  • MX3D (Netherlands): Software development for large scale Robotic 3D metal printing.
  • Rebartek (Norway): Standardized robotic cell to assemble reinforcement bar (rebar) pieces into rebar cages.
  • Rovenso (Switzerland): Agile robots that perform security and safety monitoring of industrial sites.
  • Automato Robotics (Israel): Robot development that works in soil/greenhouses/high tunnels to detect ripe tomatoes and harvests them.
  • Cyber Surgery (Spain): Robotic assistant for spine surgery.
  • Proxima Centauri (Denmark): Automation of the picking and sorting of natural casings.
  • Infocode (Poland): Infocode has created Bin-e, an IoT device that sorts and compress the recyclables automatically.
  • Formhand(Germany): Granulate-based vacuum grippers that can adapt to and handle objects with different shapes.

On top of that, all startups had a chance to get to know the Odense Hub ecosystem and visit some of the successful Robotics companies and talk with them:Inwatec, UAS, and Quadsat.

Selected startups kick off his first face to face meetings with the future technical mentors from VTT, PIAP, Tecnalia, DTI, and TU Delft in order to start planning the next steps for the Research and Product Development phase. 

Watch what went on at the Welcome Camp in our resume video from the day here!

Under the sea: Submarine drones for ocean exploration

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Have you ever wondered how big is the ocean and how robots can help us explore it? According to the Smithsonian Institute, this massive body of water holds over 1.3 billion cubic kilometers of water and covers 71% of the Earth’s surface. Although it’s been investigated since ancient times, the ocean is still a mystery to many researchers. Humans have been making efforts to gain knowledge about it all throughout history and robots could help us uncover its mysteries.

Ocean exploration started around 5000 B.C. with the firsts attempts in ocean diving, sailing vessels, diving bells, and coastal maps. As humanity gained knowledge and technology advanced, we explored further and farther from shores, discovering lands and connecting with cultures around the world.

After the invention of the first diving suit in the 18th century, deep-diving started to seem possible and expeditions to explore the Ocean continued underwater with the invention of the submarine. The 1900s became a turning point and humanity started to reach deep sea levels. The deep-sea is what scientists define as the part of the ocean below the thermocline, the layer where effects of sunlight cease, and above the seafloor. But there are only so many places we as a species can reach. And that’s where our robotic friends get into the game.

According to NOAA Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) are unoccupied, highly maneuverable underwater robots that can be used to explore ocean depths while being operated by someone at the water surface. 

Most ROVs are equipped with at least a still camera, video camera, and lights, meaning that they can transmit images and video back to the ship. Additional equipment, such as a manipulator or cutting arm, water samplers, and instruments that measure parameters like water clarity and temperature, may also be added to vehicles to allow for sample collection. They were first developed for industrial uses but today are used for a wide range of applications, including scientific research. 

There are also Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs), which are computer-controlled systems operating undersea. AUVs are unmanned underwater robots akin to the Curiosity rover NASA uses on Mars. 

As their name suggests, AUVs operate independently of humans. AUVs have no physical connection to their operator, who may be onshore or aboard a ship. Rather, AUVs are self-guiding and self-powered vehicles. AUVs may glide from the sea surface to ocean depths and back. Others can stop, hover, and move as blimps or helicopters do through the air.

Combining the advantages of ROVs and AUVs there are also Hybrid Remotely Operated Vehicles (HROVs), the vehicles operate as a free-swimming autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), flying through the ocean like an aircraft to survey and map large areas with onboard sonar, sensors, and cameras. 

It can also be converted aboard ship into a remotely operated vehicle (ROV), connected to a surface ship via a lightweight, micro-thin fiber-optic tether that permits scientists and operators on the surface to control the vehicle and its manipulator arm to carry out targeted surveys and collections, and help carry out detailed experiments in the deep ocean.

These kinds of robots can reach places and depths that are not possible for humans, using underwater robots could decrease costs for many activities that are currently performed by Human Occupied Vehicles, improve safety in dangerous tasks and increase performance for underwater related activities.

“Underwater robots could decrease costs for many activities that are currently performed by Human Occupied Vehicles, improve safety in dangerous tasks and increase performance for underwater related activities”

If you want to know more about the current state of ocean exploration we recommend you to read the interview with Andy Bowen director of the National Deep Submergence Facility at The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Imagining new vehicles for exploration

  • Discover what lies beneath the surface

Among many applications, Underwater Robots have the potential to explore the oceans in numerous ways, for that purpose projects like Nido Robotics Sibiu Nano, the perfect tool to perform underwater inspections, efficiently and very profitably, as well as living a completely complete underwater experience. With this robot you can get live images through your 1080p camera, specifically optimized for the marine environment.

Or Nido Robotics Sibiu PRO, a bigger underwater drone that allows performing research, inspection, and maintenance of submerged facilities in an efficient and safe way. It comes with a 1080p camera, specifically optimized for the underwater environment, together with its 4 lights of 1500 lumens allowing to obtain a clear image in low light environments.

It incorporates eight thrusters, which gives it smoothness and stability in navigation. In addition, the latest generation engineering with which it has been built and its technological innovation allows it to reach depths of up to 300m.

A great example of a use for these underwater robots could is the vital role they could play in the research of ocean species and their behavior patterns by collecting images or samples. 

  • Solving challenges one AUV at the time 

Subsea Mechatronics is an R&D start-up SME focused on mechatronics developments and consultancy services. 

Their toolbot offers a solution for the last mile dredging operations where spots are hard to reach, where underneath infrastructures must be maintained or when conventional methods are oversized to actuate with precision.

RobotUnion is supporting important underwater solutions that bring an innovative way to the underwater and marine industry. The range of activities in underwater exploration could be greatly improved by using ROVs, AUVs, and HROVs, we are certain that as technology continues improving will be seeing a lot more of these robots diving into the depths of our big blue ocean.

Written by Natalia Cardona Mercado for RobotUnion

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