Brazil robot helps farmers scout, spray and protect crops, developer says

By Ana Mano

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazilian agriculture startup Solinftec plans to accelerate deliveries of its farming robot in Brazil and in the United States, CEO Britaldo Hernandez said in an interview, in a sign of growing demand for "precision agriculture" tools in two of the world's largest food producers.

Sold at a price of $50,000, the Solix AG Robotics unit can scout crops and monitor development of individual plants, as well as target-spray herbicide to save costs.

Solinftec plans to deliver 40 units to customers this year and 250 next year in the U.S. and Brazil, Hernandez said, up from 20 units delivered in 2022.

Solinftec says it can produce 1,600 units per year at two factories, one in Brazil and the other in the U.S.

The company says it is the first robot developed for large scale farming. Like other precision-agriculture technologies such as drones and satellite imagery, the robot aims to help food producers avoid waste and use analytics to improve yields and engage in more sustainable production practices.

The machine, powered by artificial intelligence, includes a "hunter" feature that eliminates insects using light beams and electrical shocks, Hernandez said.

"If the robot can wander 24 hours, all year round on the property, it can understand and act on the farm's entire ecosystem," he said. "We wanted a robot that lived on the farm."

Farmers in the U.S. corn belt who tested the robot's sprayer feature there cut herbicide use by up to 95% on average, Solinftec said.

Hernandez said the robot, which runs on solar power, can monitor all types of crops, including soy, corn, sugarcane, onions, potatoes and tomatoes.

Solinftec, backed by Brazil's Trajano family, which owns the retail empire Magazine Luiza, says it has recurring revenues of $60 million annually.

Sugar giant Raizen is among the companies receiving deliveries of Solinftec's robot while grain behemoth Amaggi is already using it, Hernandez said. Some 300 clients have placed orders and currently await delivery, according to company disclosures.

(This story has been corrected after an official revision by Solinftec CEO to say that Raizen has ordered the robot while Amaggi is already using it, in paragraph 11)

(Reporting by Ana Mano; Editing by Andy Sullivan)