Following a year dominated by the turmoil and uncertainty concerning the Covid-19 pandemic, Kubota has turned its eye to the future and invested in a ‘Series B’ venture funding investment round totalling $20 million for Tevel, an industry leader in the flying autonomous fruit-picking robot harvesting segment.
With this investment in Tevel, Kubota has taken steps to accelerate its innovation philosophy with the objective of creating new business opportunities, products and services for the farming industry. With the pandemic leaving globalisation at a fork in the road, the Kubota Group is intending to expand its community-focused business operations in order to deliver integrated and collaborative solutions, technological advancements and unique customer value across all segments of its business.
Every year, over 800 million tons of fruits are produced in an area of 70 million hectares worldwide, representing an annual market value of $1 trillion. Farmers spend annually $100 billion on fruit picking and recruit over 10 million temporary workers for a short period of time to pick their fruit. These seasonal workers are harder and harder to find, recruit, train, employ and provide temporary housing for. Sourcing and operating field workers during the picking season is a major constraint that risks their investment and profitability for the season, as well as their ability to pick all of their fruit within a short and competitive time window. In addition, due to the complexity in crossing borders and international travel during the pandemic, the Covid-19 crisis has further aggravated the labour shortage and increased the risk in fruit production by limiting the availability of migrant workers. Therefore, Tevel’s solution increases global food security by providing an available and reliable supply chain.
Tevel, founded in 2017 in Israel, is developing autonomous flying robots for fruit picking combining AI with computer vision, advanced robotics, aeronautical engineering, state-of-the-art flight control and data fusion and perception. Tevel has solved numerous technological challenges and is expected to implement commercial roll-out in 2021. Tevel’s solution delivers the highest performance at the lowest cost, along with high levels of flexibility that enable the harvest of multiple fruit types. The strategic positioning of Kubota as a leader in global agriculture and equipment manufacturing, together with Tevel, will reinforce the company’s development of labour-saving and automation technology for fruit-picking and enable the launch of a solutions business utilising these technologies, that will contribute to labour-saving and efficiency improvement in farming.
Throughout its history, Kubota has shown its commitment to solving society’s challenges time and time again. As Kubota moves forward, the company will continue with its endeavours to contribute in the critical areas of food, water and the environmental. An example of these endeavours were exemplified in 2019, as Kubota founded the ‘Innovation Centre’ in Japan and Europe as divisions for the creation of new business ventures, products and services. This division helps to produce an environment that fosters and promotes innovation through partnerships with external businesses such as AgTech startups, agricultural producers, research institutes, and universities.
“Through further innovation, we will continue contributing to the world in the fields of food, water, and the environment, looking ahead to the post-Covid-19 society,” states Yuichi Kitao, Chaiman and Representative Director, Kubota Corporation.
“With our investment in Tevel, we partnered with one of the most advanced technology companies in fruit picking. Kubota is committed to help solve fruit growers’ problems in providing security for harvesting timing and quality and to deal with the increasing labour issues that growers are facing nowadays,” explains Peter van der Vlugt, General Manager of the Innovation Centre Europe.