PODCAST: Daniel Theobald on funding early startups and the future for ag robotics

In this episode

On this episode, we sit down with Vecna Robotics Founder and Chairman Daniel Theobald and talk about the perils of funding early-stage robotics startups and the experience that Daniel will bring to the Robotics Startup Workshop on October 18 at RoboBusiness 2023.
Daniel also takes us behind the scenes at his latest venture at Twisted Fields on the California coast, his personal farm and ag-robotics test ground. It’s a great conversation with one of the mobile robotics industry’s luminaries.


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News of the week

  • IFR reports 2022 industrial robot installations
    • According to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) World Robotics report, 553,052 industrial robots were installed in factories around the world – a growth rate of 5% in 2022, year-on-year. By region, 73% of all newly deployed robots were installed in Asia, 15% in Europe, and 10% in the Americas.
      • China is by far the world’s largest market. In 2022, annual installations of 290,258 units replaced the previous record of 2021 by growth of 5%.
      • Robot installations in Japan were up by 9% to 50,413 units, exceeding the pre-pandemic level of 49,908 units in 2019. The peak level remained at 55,240 units in 2018. The country ranks second to China in the size of the market for industrial robots.
      • The market in the Republic of Korea rose by 1% – installations reached 31,716 units in 2022. This was the second year of marginal growth, following four years of declining installation figures. The Republic of Korea remains the fourth largest robot market in the world, following the United States, Japan, and China.
      • The European Union remains the world’s second-largest market (70,781 units; +5%) in 2022. Germany is one of the top five adopters worldwide with a market share of 36% within the EU.
      • Finally, In the Americas, installations were up 8% to 56,053 units in 2022, surpassing the 2018 peak level (55,212 units). The United States, the largest regional market, accounted for 71% of the installations in the Americas in 2022. Robot installations were up by 10% to 39,576 units. This was just shy of the peak level of 40,373 units achieved in 2018.
  • 2024 Farm Robotics Challenge
    • The 2024 Farm Robotics Challenge competition kicked off last week at FIRA USA 2024
    • It’s a university engineering challenge for AG robotics, in a similar vein to the Indy Autonomous Challenge
    • The Farm Robotics challenge is supported by Farm-ng, which is supplying Amiga robot components to the participants
    • The teams will propose a specific AG automation-related project and then execute the creation of the solution throughout the school year
    • Judging happens in September 2024
      • There are four categories of awards:
        • Grand Prize: Awarded to the team that excels in all aspects of the challenge, from innovation to implementation.
        • Elegance in Design: Celebrates the team that excels in creating a well-designed, user-friendly solution.
        • Complexity: Honors the team that tackles the most complex challenges with an advanced and intricate solution.
        • Small Farm: Recognizes the team that creates a solution specifically tailored to the needs of small farms.
  • Dexterity debuts trailer loading system
    • Dexterity AI announced a collaboration with FedEx Corp to leverage AI-powered robotic technology to load boxes into trucks and trailers. Dexterity’s propriety mobile robot design, called DexR, navigates autonomously to the back of trailers and uses its two robotic arms to load boxes from a powered conveyor system into the truck.
    • At FedEx, robotic systems need to be able to handle packages that vary in size, shape, weight, and packaging material.
    • In August, Dexterity unveiled the 3.0 release of its Palletizing and Depalletizing software (PDP), which is aimed at unlocking pallet operations in the warehouse.
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Written by

Mike Oitzman

Mike Oitzman is Senior Editor of WTWH's Robotics Group, cohost of The Robot Report Podcast, and founder of the Mobile Robot Guide. Oitzman is a robotics industry veteran with 25-plus years of experience at various high-tech companies in the roles of marketing, sales and product management. He can be reached at moitzman@wtwhmedia.com.