SwarmFarm Robotics is transforming the future of farming

The company is helping Australian farmers use cutting edge tech with support from our Early Stage Venture Capital Limited Partnership program and Tenacious Ventures.

Founded in 2012, SwarmFarm Robotics is a Queensland-based robotics company that develops autonomous farming platforms. The company’s robots improve crop production with cutting edge technology and farming methods. 

SwarmFarm’s robots help the agricultural sector be more efficient and work to:

  • offset the problems posed by climate challenges
  • reduce the potential for crop damage by pests and insects 
  • lessen the environmental impacts of pesticide spray drift
  • improve sustainability by using less herbicide. 

[Music starts. The opening title page shows a blue panel with the Australia Government, Department of Industry, Science and Resources crest and logo appear in stack format. The panel also shows the video title and subtitle: SwarmFarm Tenacious Ventures, Venture Capital Case Study Series.

A panoramic image appears on screen of a farm with open fields, roads, warehouse and other structures, parking lot with cars appears. The skies are blue and clear, with only a few clouds. 

A male speaker is heard in the background.]

Andrew Bate: We're out here at a farm called Bendee, which is the home of SwarmFarm Robotics. So we started here as farmers in a family farming business. 

[The image changes to Andrew Bate seated inside a warehouse with farming equipment and other machines behind him. He is speaking to the camera. His full name, occupation and company name appears at the lower left-hand side of the screen. It states: Andrew Bate, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, SwarmFarm Robotics]

Andrew Bate: We're one of the few companies that have actually taken, you know, real autonomy and real robotics and commercially handed the keys over to farmers.

[The image changes to Sarah Nolet seated in an office, speaking to the camera. Her full name, occupation and company name appears at the lower left-hand side of the screen. It states: Sarah Nolet, Co-Founder and Managing Partner, Tenacious Ventures]

Sarah Nolet: We started Tenacious Ventures because we really saw a need to unlock all the latent potential in the Australian agricultural innovation system, especially given all the climate challenges that agriculture is facing and will face in the future.

[The image changes to Andrew talking with a woman and a man. They are on the farm with what appears to be farming equipment. Andrew is speaking in the background. The image changes to Andrew seated inside a shed with farming equipment and other machines behind him. He is speaking to the camera.]

Andrew Bate: The whole reason we started SwarmFarm was to really shift agriculture to a better place. We're not interested in automating a tractor or doing more of the same in an incremental change. This is something that's going to fundamentally change the way you get out of bed in the morning and think about growing your crops. And that's something we're really proud of because we're a team here in regional Australia.

Andrew Bate: We're right here in the heart of agriculture on farm delivering cutting edge technology.

[An image appears showing Sarah sitting at a desk and scrolling a computer screen and then writing notes on a smart pad. The image changes to Sarah sitting down in an office. She is speaking to the camera.]

Sarah Nolet: So we met SwarmFarm and the moment we got to know them, we just saw how much potential the solution had to scale in and outside of Australia. They were one of our initial investments because we had gotten to know the team and seen just how exciting the technology really was.

[An image appears of a farmer using a device to control a robotic agricultural piece of equipment which moves across crops. The image changes to Andrew in a shed in front of farming equipment. He is speaking to the camera.]

Andrew Bate: One of the key things we realised in SwarmFarm early on, there's no way that SwarmFarm as a company can invent and develop all the new farming techniques and different ways of producing food that’s required in agriculture. We literally need an army of people around the world developing this. And what SwarmFarm does is brings local agriculture and local technology to a global level.

[An image of Andrew in the shed speaking to the camera. The image changes to 2 farmers in a paddock using a device and robotic technology moving over crops.]

Andrew Bate: We actually have like an app store and a developer ecosystem that we call SwarmConnect. And what that does, it allows other people, other innovators around the world to develop new ag technology that suits their region, their climate, their cropping system that they produce food in and allows them to release this new robotic technology as part of our robots.

[An image appears of Sarah sitting in an office speaking to the camera directly. The image changes to a farm setting where robotic technology is moving over crops.]

Sarah Nolet: We've looked at agricultural robotics solutions all over the world and it's quite an exciting space. There are very few though, like SwarmFarm who are building fully autonomous platforms that really unlock whole new ways of farming.

[An image appears of Andrew showing 2 people a piece of robotic agricultural technology.]

Andrew Bate: When we kicked off, we didn't know how to raise funding and capital. We funded a large section ourselves in the early days. We're now starting to get noticed on a global level where global investors are starting to look in and see opportunities within Australia now because of the ecosystem we've built, that takes more risk and more unknowns.

[An image appears of Sarah sitting in an office speaking to the camera.]

Sarah Nolet: Especially for early stage innovation in Australia, the Early Stage Venture Capital Limited Partnership program, ESVCLP, that's been massive for us in terms of attracting investors to the agriculture and technology space, which then in turn unlocks more capital for businesses like SwarmFarm who need that funding to grow and scale and prove out how good Australian agricultural innovation really is.

[An image appears of a man turning some bolts on a piece of equipment.]

Andrew Bate: Those incentives have helped get the first ag tech dedicated VCs off and running here in Australia.

[An image appears of 3 women speaking while standing next to some equipment. Then the image changes to Sarah sitting in an office speaking to the camera.]

Sarah Nolet: SwarmFarm often get asked, you know, ‘how do you think about, are you taking jobs away? Are regional communities going to be smaller?’ It's actually the opposite. If there are going to be young people coming back to these communities what we're seeing is they want to work on the farm where the robot is.

[An image appears of Andrew in a shed in front of farming equipment. He is speaking to the camera]

Andrew Bate: As robotics and technology starts bringing new farming practices into agriculture. So, there are methods that use less chemicals, use fertiliser more efficiently that grow healthier crops or higher yielding crops. That's going to involve more technical management and detailed planning and more deep thinking around how these systems come together. So it's a really engaged future with more opportunities.

[Video ends with a final blue panel showing the Australian Government, Department of Industry, Science and Resources crest and logo in stack format at the top left of the screen.

This URL also appears at the bottom left: business.gov.au/grants-and-programs/venture-capital.]

[Music ends]

Two of our programs helped SwarmFarm develop their product: the Early Stage Venture Capital Limited Partnership (ESVCP) and the Business Research and Innovation Initiative (BRII).

The ESVCLP program supported SwarmFarm through Tenacious Ventures, an agtech venture capital firm. As of February 2024, the ESVCP has invested $5.67 billion into Australian businesses. These investments help early stage companies commercialise their innovative products.

The BRII gave SwarmFarm almost $1.1 million in funding for their proposed solution to agricultural spray drift. Funding included:

  • $98,189 Feasibility grant to validate their proposed solution
  • $990,286 Proof of Concept grant to develop a proof of concept or prototype of their proposed solution. 

The investment gave SwarmFarm the resources and support to further develop and commercialise their product. This helped the company expand their team, create new market opportunities and work with other businesses and research institutions.