NZ company Invert Robotics expands into global market
A New Zealand-developed climbing inspection robot has caught the attention of top US investors, with its ability to help keep workers safe in hazardous environments.
Invert Robotics has announced it has secured a US$8.8 million round of funding led by Finistere Ventures, an agtech/foodtech venture pioneer, with support from Yamaha Motor Ventures & Laboratory Silicon Valley (YMVSV), the corporate venture capital business of Yamaha Motor.
Existing investors, such as Allan Moss, Inception Asset Management and the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund, also participated in the capital raise.
Using the strategic investment to scale its team, open a US office and expand its technology platform and industry-specific solutions, Invert Robotics aims to increase the global footprint of its climbing robot — the first specifically designed to inspect the integrity and safety of non-magnetic, hazardous environments.
“The immediate value of Invert Robotics across the global food supply chain — from ensuring food and beverages are stored and transported in safe, pathogen-free environments, to avoiding catastrophic failures in agrichemical-industry containers and plants — is undeniably impressive,” said Arama Kukutai, co-founder and partner, Finistere Ventures. “However, we see the potential applications as almost limitless. With Invert Robotics, companies across a variety of industries will be able to deploy climbing robots to make asset inspection easier and more effective to avoid life-threatening situations for their workers, their communities and their consumers.”
Invert Robotics offers precise, remote inspection of non-magnetic surfaces such as stainless steel, carbon fibre, aluminium and glass. Its climbing robot is already being used by key players in the global aviation market, alongside major Australian and New Zealand dairy companies and cooperatives such as Fonterra, Synlait and Murray Goldburn.
The global chemical industry represents another market where Invert Robotics’ technology is helping to keep workers safe while undertaking critical equipment inspections.
“Our climbing robots go where other robots cannot and people should not,” said Invert Robotics Managing Director Neil Fletcher. “We give our customers an easier, safer and faster way to inspect the safety and integrity of the most hazardous and toxic environments. Industrial accidents in the chemical industry can be costly and sometimes even deadly, but they are often preventable. Remote inspection solutions that take into account chemical corrosion and high-pressure processing scenarios can help chemical companies improve worker safety, optimise maintenance and avoid future tragedies.”
The Invert Robotics climbing robots can securely adhere to surfaces that other robots cannot and go into confined, treacherous spaces that would put workers’ lives at risk. Going beyond visual inspections, the company’s robots can perform in-depth scans using surface-wave detection and ultrasonic probes to measure wall thickness, assess structural integrity and find defects on any surface.
“As part of Yamaha’s long-term vision supporting the development of advanced robots to improve workplace efficiency and safety, Invert Robotics’ technology and its value proposition made a positive impression on our investment committee,” added Craig Boshier, partner and General Manager for Yamaha Motor Ventures in Australia and New Zealand. “Importantly, the robotic technology’s adaptability to different environments and industries is well supported by an engaged team. That combination, with proper capitalisation, positions Invert Robotics for success in its global market expansion.”
Headquartered in New Zealand with offices throughout Europe, Invert Robotics will also build out an artificial intelligence platform that will allow customers to take a proactive approach to asset management by predicting potential fail points and future maintenance needs.
The company’s principal European office is located in Eindhoven in the Netherlands.
This latest investment adds to the considerable funding Invert Robotics has already received from government and private venture capital sources. A limited private investor round raised NZ$9.6 million in 2017, assisted by Joe Capra, founding principal of Australian private equity and investment firm Lennoxgrove Capital.
To support its international expansion and product development plans, Dean Tilyard from The Factory will join the Invert Robotics board. The Factory acts as a business development partner for innovative New Zealand companies, and Tilyard represents Finistere in New Zealand.
“Finistere’s latest investment reflects the growing status of New Zealand as a centre of excellence in ag and food tech,” said Arama Kukutai. “By working alongside the company to grow its technology platform and market access, we believe we can help accelerate Invert’s growth and access to capital, including from trusted partners like Yamaha and others in our venture capital ecosystem.”
Adding both industry-specific and technology expertise, Finistere’s Kukutai and Yamaha’s Boshier will also join the Invert Robotics board as observers.
“Finistere and Yamaha have already demonstrated an incredible amount of knowledge and passion, and we look forward to tapping their deep technical and global support infrastructures to help us continue to scale the company,” concluded Fletcher.
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