Bowery Farming Adds Robotic Harvesting Tech

Vertical farmer's acquisition of Traptic coincides with strawberry launch this spring
Marian Zboraj, Progressive Grocer
Bowery Farming Adds Robotic Harvesting Tech
Traptic's 3D vision, robotic arms and AI combined with Bowery's technology will be used to harvest ripe strawberries.

Smart indoor farming just got more sophisticated. Vertical-farming company Bowery Farming has acquired Traptic, a tech company using computer vision, robotic arms and artificial intelligence (AI) to harvest fruiting, vine and other delicate crops, including strawberries and tomatoes. Bowery will be the first indoor-farming company to use Traptic technology.

Founded in 2015, Bowery Farming is on a mission to democratize access to high-quality, local, safe and sustainable produce. It builds smart indoor farms near cities to grow fresher, pesticide-free Protected Produce in precisely controlled environments 365 days a year with less waste, water and land compared with traditional agriculture. The vertical-farming company serves major e-commerce platforms and more than 800 grocery stores in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions, including Albertsons Cos. (Safeway and Acme), Amazon Fresh, Giant Food, Walmart, Wakefern, Weis, Whole Food Markets and specialty grocers.

With Traptic technology, Bowery intends to accelerate the commercialization of its fruiting and vine crops. Traptic combines 3D cameras and AI with robotic arms equipped with a unique gripper to harvest fragile fruit and vine crops. The vision system uses 3D cameras and neural networks to distinguish ripe from unripe produce, and precisely determines their position. The AI figures out how the robotic arms should move to pick the ripe crops from their plants. According to Traptic, its technology works 24 hours per day, reduces food waste by up to 20%, and increases yields of high-quality, blemish-free produce.

"Traptic is the perfect complement to Bowery's industry-leading technological advances," said Injong Rhee, CTO of Bowery Farming, which is based in New York City. "The dexterity and precision of Traptic's robotic-arm movement, engineered by 3D localization and pathing, is very exciting. By joining forces with Traptic, Bowery's network of smart indoor farms will achieve another level of technological sophistication and maturity."

The acquisition of Traptic coincides with the first phase of Bowery's commercial launch of strawberries this spring. Traptic’s technology will play a significant role in scaling Bowery's strawberries and other fruiting and vine crops across the United States, and eventually the globe.

"The technology we built to operate in harsh outdoor farm environments will work even better indoors, which will translate into even higher-quality produce like strawberries, other fruiting and vine crops, and so much more," noted Lewis Anderson, CEO of Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Traptic. As part of the acquisition, Anderson will lead Bowery's robotic solutions team and report to Justin Frankert, Bowery's VP of robotics and automation.

Traptic's technology will integrate into Bowery's network of farms powered by its proprietary BoweryOS solution, which uses software, hardware, sensors, computer vision systems, machine-learning models and robotics to orchestrate and automate the entirety of its operation.

The Traptic acquisition comes after last month's news that Bowery is growing its farming network with two new locations. Its new farm, in Locust Grove, Ga., part of the metro Atlanta area, will serve a population of 20 million people within a 200-mile radius. The other farm will be located in the Dallas- Fort Worth Metroplex, serving a population of 16 million people within a 200-mile radius. Both farms are expected to open in the first quarter of 2023.

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