Friday, 08 December 2023 10:25

Smart money backs smart machine

Written by  Staff Reporters
The Smart Machine team from left Nick Gledhill, Walter Langlois and Andrew Kersley. The Smart Machine team from left Nick Gledhill, Walter Langlois and Andrew Kersley.

Marlborough-based start-up SmartMachine claims its new machine is one of the most significant operational step changes for viticulture since the advent of the tractor 130 years ago.

The company’s flagship product Oxin is the world’s first fully autonomous, multi-tasking viticultural robotic tractors.

These cutting-edge machines promise to revolutionise the viticulture landscapes by enabling greater operational efficiencies and addressing the challenges posed by the ongoing labour shortages the industry faces.

This development has seen the start-up attract the interest of global investor FABALI, which has invested into Smart- Machine.

The company’s first funding round has raised $1.93m, securing ongoing support from multinational Pernod Ricard Winemakers and attracting new Investors FABAL Investments, New Zealand Growth Capital Fund, Angel Investors Marlborough and Angel HQ.

Company spokesman Andrew Kersley says that at a time where the investment market has been challenging, this highlights the uniqueness of the product offering and value proposition that the company’s products and service offer to global horticultural industries.

FABALI Group chief executive Ashley Keegan says that after looking hard at the global landscape, this technology and the team behind it has the potential to be one of the most significant operational step changes for the industry since the advent of the tractor over 130 years ago.

Foundation partner Pernod Ricard Winemakers has also backed the product and business from the beginning. Viticulture transformation manager David Allen says the company’s continued investment in Smart- Machine’s technology is down to how it can revolutionise the viticulture landscape.

Kersley says it is an exciting time for the business. “We are focusing on building out our revenue model in New Zealand and establishing our market position in Australia, while strategically working through our launch in the United States.”

He says it has both industry and government backing through MPI and its Sustainable Farming Futures Fund to build a fully electric version of the machine, which he claims will ‘shift the dial’ even further regarding the sustainable benefits of this technology.

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