Innovation Works and Pittsburgh Robotics Network Convene Global Agriculture Leaders to Create Technology Solutions

Apr 17, 2024 | Announcement, News, Press Releases

Jennifer Apicella, Executive Director of the Pittsburgh Robotics Network, speaks at the Agriculture and Robotics Summit.

The global AgTech sector faces a monumental challenge: increasing food production by 80% by 2050, with 70% of that increase requiring productivity improvements. Innovation Works, one of the most active seed-stage investors in the country, with the support of the Pittsburgh Robotics Network convened 80 roboticists and global agriculture leaders to start creating solutions. 

The Agriculture & Robotics Summit, a two-day workshop facilitated by industry experts, kicked off Tuesday with a welcome reception, keynotes, and panel discussions. The event pairs robotics executives, technologists, and entrepreneurs with agriculture leaders to develop business plans addressing critical issues such as labor augmentation, decarbonization, decentralization, and meeting the growing demand for food production. 

The summit is a component of the Robotics Factory’s Create program that seeks to build collaboration between sectors to develop innovative solutions for pressing issues. Tuesday’s speakers included Russell Redding, Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Agriculture; Regina Black, Senior Advisor at the U.S. Department of Agriculture; Viren Popli, President and ​​CEO of Mahindra Ag North America; and Brett McMickell, Chief Technology Officer of Kubota North America.

Kevin Dowling, Managing Director of the Robotics Factory, welcomes attendees to the start of the Agriculture and Robotics Summit.

“Pittsburgh’s unique combination of robotics expertise and agricultural prominence positions us to lead the way in developing innovative solutions for the agriculture industry that will have a lasting impact on food production and sustainability worldwide,” said Kevin Dowling, Managing Director of the Robotics Factory. “Last year’s summit focused on aviation, which led to ongoing engagement by aviation firms with regional robotics startups, and we can drive similar results for the agriculture industry.”

“The agriculture industry faces many challenges with acute demand pressures driven by population growth and supply considerations stemming from climate issues, water and energy shortages, fertilizer costs, and labor shortages,” said Ven Raju, CEO of Innovation Works. “Robotics and automation can play a role in increasing productivity and yield to ensure food security for generations to come.“

Leaficient, part of last year’s inaugural Robotics Factory cohort, is just one example of how robotics can solve agriculture challenges. It leverages its extensive experience in adaptive optics, machine learning, and robotics to develop solutions that allow growers to control and monitor every aspect of the light environment applied to their crops. 

Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding addresses the crowd at the Agriculture and Robotics Summit.

“Innovative problem-solving is in the DNA of farmers,” Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said. “If it weren’t, we would have no farms and no food. The increasingly complex challenges agriculture faces from climate change, volatile markets, and labor shortages demand technological solutions, collaboration across fields, and investment to put those solutions to work where we need them. That’s why we’re here, and it’s why Governor Josh Shapiro has proposed investing in a $10 million Agriculture Innovation Fund to help Pennsylvania farmers get the job done and get on with feeding our families and Pennsylvania’s economy.”

The $10.3 million Agriculture Innovation Fund announced by Governor Josh Shapiro in February is a key ingredient to leveraging robotics and automation to solve agriculture’s challenges. Innovation Works, the Global Organization For Agricultural Robotics, and the Pittsburgh Robotics Network announced collaboration efforts at the summit to create economic opportunities as they develop new solutions.

“Through strategic collaborations and deep tech advancements, Pittsburgh is setting a global standard for real-world applications of robotics and AI across multiple industries,” said Jennifer Apicella, Executive Director of the Pittsburgh Robotics Network. “The partnerships formed as a result of the Agriculture and Robotics Summit are crucial for developing commercially focused robotics companies that not only drive economic growth but also contribute to sustainable agricultural practices worldwide.”

The Agriculture & Robotics Summit kicked off at Bakery Square, a $500 million mixed-use development built by Walnut Capital. Home to Google’s only Pennsylvania office, the site houses Carnegie Mellon University’s tech transfer office and is home to over 25 AI and life sciences companies. Poised to grow by an additional 14-acres, the development represents an ideal setting for a summit dedicated to pioneering new agricultural technologies and fostering economic growth through AI and robotics.

Learn more about the Agriculture and Robotics Summit.