What is the elevator pitch you use for your startup?
Neupeak helps farmers struggling with chronic labor shortages by offering strawberry harvesting as a service, using its fleet of fully autonomous robotic soft fruit harvesters.
We offer fruit harvesting as a service, thus allowing farmers to access our fleet of robots without any upfront investment needed. Our robots can pick at night, allowing farmers to use our service without any changes in their day-to-day operations.
What pain points are you trying to solve in agriculture?
Even with rising minimum wages, over 70% of farmers struggle to find enough people to work on their farms. Over 1 in 4 jobs on the field will go unfilled by 2030. A typical berry grower today spends >50% of their total revenue on labor alone. We want to solve this chronic labor shortage with our fleet of fully autonomous robots that will offer fruit picking as a service. Strawberries are our first beachhead, but the robot and the intelligence we are developing have a wide variety of applications, and we plan to automate all manual labor in fields.
How did you get the idea to start your company?
Neupeak was started with the vision to make a general-purpose labor automation platform.
What are your plans to work with the Grand Farm?
We are looking forward to working with Grand Farm to recognize potential growers in the region we can work with. Grand Farms opens up new opportunities to grow our presence in ND, and we are excited to get access to excellent research potential at NDSU to explore new markets for our versatile fleet of robots.
What are your plans for the US market? Do you think you’ll have a presence in the midwest?
95% of all strawberries grown in North America come from the US, and it is a similar story for a lot of other specialty crops like cucumbers and peppers. We already work with some of the largest berry growers on the west coast (BC, California) and east coast (Ontario, New York) and have conducted over 6 pilots and trials in these regions.
We see strong growth of indoor greenhouses in the Midwest, particularly in Minnesota and North Dakota to account for short growing seasons. With effects from climate change bringing uncertainty in seasons, we expect excellent energy infrastructure and strong research institutions in ND would make it one of the hotbeds of controlled environment agriculture in the near future. We are particularly excited about new, innovative greenhouse projects under development with support from the ND government, such as NG2 and Spiritwood.
If your product/service was already being used by everyone… globally… what impact would that have?
We will have helped the world fix one of the biggest challenges facing agriculture today: labor shortage. Even with rising minimum wages, over 70% of farmers cannot find enough workers in North America. Adjusted for inflation, the market price for specialty crops like strawberries has stayed relatively stable for the past 30 years, while the cost of labor and production has gone up by more than 300%. This trend has put excessive pressure on growers and will make our domestic industry unviable in the next 15 years when competing with other countries like Mexico and Chile that have access to a much cheaper labor pool.
Our fleet of robots will make US agriculture competitive with the rest of the world, and allow farmers to focus their resources on growing their operations and not on hiring and training. We need this evolution in precision agriculture to ensure the world is capable of feeding the 11 billion people it will have by 2040.
How are you incorporating growers into your business plan?
Over the past 4 years, we have developed our precision harvester robots in close collaboration with growers, getting their feedback during the whole development and testing process. Through this journey, we realized that It is often small to medium-sized growers that struggle the most with incorporating robotic harvesting into their workflow due to excessively high upfront capital costs. In addition to this, maintaining and operating a complex harvesting machine can be expensive and time-consuming.
We remove these hurdles by offering fruit picking as a service; we charge a fixed price for every pound of strawberries picked by our fleet. We do not require the farmer to pay any upfront capital costs to bring the robots onto their field. This allows growers of all shapes and sizes to benefit from our technology. We also maintain and operate the robots on the field, providing farmers with a complete turn-key solution to harvest automation, without having to worry about HR.
Where do you see your company in 10 years?
Strawberry harvesting is our first stepping stone, but we want to follow that up soon with additional services like:
- UV Disinfection service, that will allow farmers to reduce chemical fungicide usage
- Harvesting other crops like cucumbers (2024), tomatoes (2026) and raspberries
- Automating other manual labor tasks, such as pruning and weeding
This magazine reaches 16,000+ farmers. In one sentence, what would you like to tell them?
Neupeak offers 24/7 on-demand harvest labor so the growers can focus on growing.
3430 Brighton Ave Unit 101A,
Burnaby, BC V5A 3H4, Canada