Chemical-Free Agricultural Revolution Driven by BOTONY® Robots – Exclusive Interview with GreenField CEO Clint Brauer

Posted on Jan 17 2024 - 6:43pm by Sustainable Pulse

Sustainable Pulse exclusive interview with CEO of GreenField Incorporated, Clint Brauer. GreenField is one of the leading companies in the world for chemical-free weeding solutions and were recently invested in by Chipotle.

What inspired you as a third-generation farmer to start the Chemical-Free revolution you have begun at GreenField?

Growing up on a farm, I’ve seen the impact of chemicals in agriculture firsthand.  I witnessed my father’s battle with Parkinson’s disease, which we believe was linked to prolonged exposure to farm chemicals.  Those health risks fueled my desire to create a future of food free of chemicals. I tried to do it without new tools, but it was just not going to scale.  So I turned to robotics.  The vision for GreenField was born from a desire to protect both farmers and consumers by revolutionizing farming with sustainable, regenerative agriculture and innovative farming robotics.

Do you think brands and consumers are ready for GreenField? If yes, what clear evidence have you got that they are?

Absolutely – I believe the market is ripe for GreenField’s offerings. There’s an ever- growing consumer demand for transparency and sustainability in food production. Our investments from, and partnerships with, forward-thinking brands like Chipotle and Canidae, and positive response from consumers to our initiatives are clear indicators. People are increasingly aware of the impact of their food choices on their health and the environment, and they’re seeking out products that align with those values.

Farmers are often slow at adopting new technology, due to previous bad experiences with AgTech. Have you found this to be a problem?

Farmers can be cautious which is understandable given the challenges they’ve faced with technology in the past and their slim margins.  I am a farmer so I know this first hand.  All of our robots are built on clear ROI, not theory.  Our swarms of BOTONY® robots provide effective solutions to real problems like labor shortages, herbicide-resistant plants, and the rising costs and hazards of chemicals. We always start on my own farm with a new capability, then with a small group of early adopters, and then with a larger group of farmers.  When it comes to the larger groups, we have one of the largest grain cooperatives in the United States, MKC, as an investor and partner.  They help us with sales and operations, and have been key in building trust and showing the practical, economic benefits of our technology.

Interested farmers will want to know how easy it is to get some of your fleet of BOTONY® robots to come and weed their fields and are they price competitive with chemical herbicides?

Our Robots-as-a-Service model makes it easy for farmers to adopt our technology. There’s no need for a large upfront investment as farmers can essentially hire our BOTONY® robots as needed. In terms of cost, leveraging our robots is competitive with the price of chemical herbicides…and unlike those inputs, we keep our prices stable.  More importantly, they offer long-term savings by improving soil health and crop yield, reducing dependency on chemicals, reducing crop damage, mitigating environmental risks, and eliminating concerns over herbicide resistance.

How does AI power your BOTONY® robots?

We utilize advanced machine-learning algorithms, drones and machine vision for pathing and navigation. Our system automatically recognizes overlapping rows, end rows, and strange objects in the field…and routes around them while minimizing crop damage.  In addition, our machine vision can recognize rows for guidance which has been the case for years.  We just don’t use it much except as a watchdog function…as we like to run at night.

Your idea of replacing chemical herbicides with robots is obviously great, however have your robots also got other benefits for environmental and agronomic improvements on farms?

Beyond replacing some herbicides, our robots contribute to the overall health of farms and the soil.  We believe, and the evidence is mounting, that the health of our soil relates directly to the health of the human digestive system.  Our small machines also allow farmers to begin to focus more on what is important, the crops themselves.  Farmers spend an awful lot of time and money thinking about tools – more than any other industry I have witnessed.  That needs to change.  Our little Weedbots will do more than just weeding in 2024.  We are adding three other capabilities that will help farmers reduce their water and chemical uses, along with measuring their results.

GreenField also has a strong focus on ingredients – can you explain how the robotic weeding arm of your company connects with the clean ingredients aims you have?

Our robotic weeding technology contributes directly to our clean ingredients initiative. By reducing the need for post-plant chemical herbicides, we ensure that crops are grown free from harmful residues and yield cleaner, healthier ingredients for consumers.  This aligns with our mission to produce food that is sustainable, safe and nutritious.

Is GreenField currently only working in the U.S.? Any plans for global expansion?

While our initial focus has been on the U.S. market, we anticipate GreenField playing a vital role in the global agricultural landscape. We are exploring partnerships and opportunities for expansion in other countries, with the aim of bringing our sustainable farming solutions and technology to a worldwide audience.

Who are GreenField’s main investors and are you still raising money?

GreenField has been fortunate to attract investors with major ag backgrounds who share our vision for sustainable agriculture, and are part of the food and ag supply chain world.  We are always open to partnerships that align with our goals and can further our mission. So, yes…we are still in conversations with world-class partners who simply want to see an end to chemicals in food.

How do you plan to build brand and consumer trust in GreenField?

Building trust is all about transparency, authenticity and results. We’ve always been open about how we operate, the technology we use, and the benefits we offer both farmers and consumers. By consistently delivering on our promises, we plan to reach our goal of eliminating the need for herbicide in broadacre agriculture completely.  It’s just part of our continuous mission to create chemical-free food at scale and cultivate a better world, one robot at a time.

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1 Comment so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. jim January 23, 2024 at 20:20 - Reply

    It sounds like this tech will eventually eliminate the need for farmers, whether unintentional or otherwise. It could be a great help, but they may ultimately move us further away from nature.

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