The start-up company Blue-White Robotics (BWR) prefers to see the current crises in the global economy, particulary in the high-tech sector, as an opportunity and not a threat. The company develops kits for converting agricultural tools such as tractors, into autonomous vehicles that can be independently get around in the field and perform a variety of farming operation without a human operator. Last September, just before the storm arrived to the global capital market, the company has raised $37 million in a Series B round, which provide the company with sufficient air to breath. Also, the company is starting its first commercialization steps, and has started to supply and install systems in orchards and vineyard in California.
In conversation with Techtime, Ben Alfi, co-founder and CEO of BWR explains why he see the current crises, in economy and in agriculture, as catalysts that will accelerate the commercial activity of the company. “In the five years of the company, we have already witnessed much turbulence, including COVID-19, the war in Ukraine, global food crisis, inflations and stock market downturn. These events actually shaped the company. In some cases, we managed to turn the crisis into an opportunity. We construct the infrastructures for the 21st century sustainable farms. In the way agriculture is run nowadays, it won’t be meet the food requirements for the growing world population. This is why the need for solutions like ours will increase in the wake of the crisis”.
Tractor around the clock
Blue White Robotics was founded in 2017 by Ben Alfi, Yair Shachar and Aviram Shmueli. It has raised a total of $50 million, in a round led by Insight Partners and Entrée Capital.
The automation kit developed by the company includes a package of LIDAR sensors, optical cameras, management software for detection and avoidance of obstacles, a pressure-sensitive front bumper to prevent vegetation damages, and it also equipped with emergency mechanisms and remote control capabilities. Using Artificial Intelligence, the tractor “learns” the land and available routs. Incorporating the kit in the tractor makes it possible for the vehicle to perform, autonomously or remotely controlled, a variety of operation such as sprays, harvesting, disking, and seeding.
Alfi: “There is a great shortage in agricultural workers, especially in developing countries. Our solutions grant an immediate ROI, as they save in pricey manpower, reduce the number of tools and minimize spray materials waste. This is one of the reasons that accelerate our growth”.
Economy laws are back
BWR currently employs 100 employees in the headquarters and the R&D center in Petach-Tikva, in addition to 40 employees around the globe. Even though other high-tech companies announced recruitment suspension, BWR is planning to expand.
Alfi: “The Israeli High-Tech will learn how to adjust to current situation, and it will strengthen it in the long run. The key is openness between all players: management, employees and investors. It is important to progress in a more precise and professional manner. The target shouldn’t be fast growth; rather it should be growing in the correct way, a way that serves the company, the customers and the investors. The current crisis made traditional economy laws effective. Eventually, any company’s growth should serve the striving for profits”.
In contrast to the last-years culture in the Israeli high tech, Alfi believes that wage and incentives are not the main factor influencing employee’s satisfaction. “An employee wants to know that his work is meaningful and influence its environment. When our employees observe that a farmer succeed in fulfill its potential through our technology, and when developers see how lines of code turn into heavy independent agricultural tool – it makes them to devote themselves and give everything to the company. Working with state of the art technologies, with people holding same values as friendship and caring for this country, together solving complicated issues – that’s what keeps people in our company for many years”.