Why has technology become an almost omnipresent entity in our daily lives? Why do we rely on appliances and strings of codes for tasks as feeble as washing dishes or doing the laundry? Why do we trust machines and robots for surgeries and creating artificial organs?
The answer to these questions fairly revolves around the capabilities that were infused into these machines and appliances by scientists and technology pioneers. These inventions possess the ability of computing large and complex data with exceptional precision and deriving accurate outcomes that far outperform those derived by humans. Moreover, the evident added advantage of convenience delivered by technology is what makes it inevitable.
Being able to leverage the innumerate possibilities offered by technology has put many innovative individuals and companies on the map and this edition, Top 10 Startups to Watch in 2021 endeavors to place the spotlight on them.
Among these companies, Nexus Robotics is one name that truly stands out for its contribution within the agriculture technology space. In brief, Nexus Robotics is a Nova Scotian technology startup, developing autonomous robotic solutions for agriculture using machine learning. “We are currently undergoing the final phase testing a prototype robot that can weed vegetable crops in a way that is truly unique,” says Jad Tawil, the Cofounder and CTO at Nexus Robotics.
Jad has been instrumental in building the core of Nexus Robotics’ AI program since day one and has literally ‘slept under the robot’ to oversee every step of the software and hardware build. In the following interview, Jad shares a few insights on the company’s journey, its vision, and its prospective future.
Below are the highlights of the interview:
Please brief our audience about Nexus Robotics, its USPs, and how it is currently positioned as a leading player in the agriculture tech space.
We design and build a fully autonomous robot that uses a pioneering technology to pull weeds out of vegetable crops. Unlike other agbots, Nexus uses precise articulated arms to remove weeds from vegetables without damaging the crop. That allows farmers to weed their fields without using manual labor or herbicides to do it.
What other solutions does your company offer, and how are these making an impact on the industry and your clients?
While the robot roams fields, it collects data that is at the core of the impact we can have on farmers’ life. Beyond weeding, we will be developing software to identify diseases and insects. This information will enable the farmers to make more informed decisions about how to best care for their crops. Additionally, we plan to address the harvesting of some very specialized crops such as peas or peppers that demand a gentle and precise touch to harvest.
Being an experienced leader, share with us your opinion on what impact has the adoption of modern technologies such as AI, big data and machine learning had on the agriculture niche and what more could be expected in the future?
Farmers are facing new challenges every year from an uncontrollable friend called weather. There is no point fighting it. However, they are also facing major issues around labor costs and availability, and this is not going to change. That is where robotics, automation and AI can really make a difference and we have decided to start with weeding, a repetitive task that nobody really likes doing but is so closely related to a crop performance.
Taking into consideration the current pandemic, what initial challenges did you face and how did you drive your company to sustain operations while ensuring safety of your employees at the same time?
We have been fortunate that pandemic really acted as an eye opener to the world about the need to automate such operations. The fact that we were still pre-commercial when the first and second waves of the virus hit. So, we have only been slightly impacted, mainly through equipment and parts delay. We have been able to structure our R&D with most of our software folks working from home.
What would be your advice to budding entrepreneurs who aspire to venture into the agritech space?
Stick to your plan, focus on what you want to achieve and bring that to the market as soon as you have a workable solution. It is no good for anyone when you R&D forever and never get the technology truly tested by those who will eventually be your customers: the farmers!
How do you envision scaling your company’s operations and offerings in 2021?
Our go-to Market plan is to have two commercial units with early adopters in the US southeast by November 2021, followed by a robust demo tour in California in March 2022. This will pave the way for our Canadian (home) debut in the summer of 2022 where we plan to have several units scattered between Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia.